Even if California parents who are ending their marriage would like to avoid a custody battle, in some cases, it might not be possible. The other parent may be unwilling to compromise, or the relationship may simply be so hostile that the couple unable to negotiate a custody and visitation agreement. If this is the case, then a judge will make a decision about custody.
Parents can take steps that may increase the likelihood that they will get custody. They might want to hire an attorney and review custody laws. If there is documentation that supports their custody bid, they should bring it to the custody hearing. Showing an ability to compromise with the other parent may also help. Even how a parent dresses and behaves in court can have bearing on the judge's decision.
The court is solely concerned with what is best for the child and not what is best for the parents. A parent may not agree with a judge's final decision but may be granted plenty of visitation time. At that point, parents can create a plan that can help them anticipate areas of friction and try to work them out ahead of time with agreed-upon guidelines.
One option for parents, before turning to litigation, might be mediation. A mediator helps people reach a compromise rather than taking the more adversarial route of going to court. Even if mediation does not ultimately help a couple reach a custody agreement, they could still try to work with a mediator when they create a parenting plan. Items in the parenting plan might include how much time the child will spend with other relatives, who is responsible for getting children to extracurricular activities, and whether the child will be permitted to meet a parent's new partner.