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California Child Custody Laws

The Golden State is a great place to fall in love. But it seems like for every story of marital bliss, there’s a tale of marital woe. So what happens if yours isn’t one of the happy endings? And which laws could apply to your child custody case? This is a brief summary of child custody laws in California.

Federal Child Custody Laws

Family law matters generally fall under state jurisdiction, including custody. Most U.S. states have adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (PDF), which fosters legal cooperation with respect to multi-state custody cases. California child custody laws comply with the Act, while also allowing grandparent visitation rights and joint custody.

Child Custody Laws in California

Each state has its own child custody laws. The following chart highlights the basics of California child custody laws.

Code Section

Fam. 3400, 3000, et seq.

Year Uniform Child Custody Act Adopted


Joint Custody an Option?

Yes, Fam. 3080 presumption

Grandparent Visitation Rights Recognized?

Yes, Fam. 3100(a), 3102, 3103, 3104

Child's Own Wishes Considered?


There are several child custody factors in California to which courts will courts look when deciding on custody cases. The first and most important is your child’s best interests. After that, your child’s age, health, emotional ties, and ties to school and community are considered, as well as any history of family abuse or neglect. California child custody procedure centers mostly around creating a parenting plan. The parenting plan lays out the details of custody, and should amenable to you and your ex. More importantly, it must be in your child’s best interests, otherwise a court will not accept it.

Finally, if your child is living with your ex most of the time, you will generally still have visitation rights in California. There are several types of visitation orders, and, as with custody decisions, the court will decide visitation issues depending on your child’s best interests. Over time, either your child’s needs or your personal circumstances might change. If so, you can file a Request for Order to modify a previous custody order. Normally, there must be a substantial change in your or your child’s circumstances and the modification must be in your child’s best interests for the court to modify a custody order.

Related Resources for Child Custody Laws

Child custody matters can be legally complex and emotionally difficult. You might find that speaking with an attorney about your case could be helpful. If you’d like legal assistance, you can meet with an experienced child custody attorney in California. There is also additional information in FindLaw’s child custody section.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Custody & child visitation cases are emotional, and a lawyer can seek the best outcome
  • A lawyer can help protect your children's interests
  • Lawyers can seek to secure visitation rights

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