The belief that courts favor mothers in custody cases is an erroneous and commonly held belief, yet it has an origin in history. In the past, traditional gender roles cast mothers as the ones who raised and took care of the children. It was believed they were the parent who naturally possessed the nurturing and emotional personalities needed to foster growth in toddlers’ developmental years. Which usually led to courts granting the mothers custody over the fathers. However, that began to change as women left home for work, and society’s views regarding gender roles began to change.
Today, California has a gender-neutral policy in child custody cases, so neither father nor mother receives extra consideration based solely on their respective genders. Instead, judges make decisions based on other factors.
The best interests of the children
Courts take into account many considerations to determine what is in the best interests of the children. This includes their age, health, and the ties they have to their parents, community, and school. They also consider the parent’s overall ability to provide, as well as, any history of domestic violence or abuse in order to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the children. It is also important to note that the court will look to see which parent is more likely to foster frequent and continuing contact between the children and the noncustodial parent. This is since it is generally in the children’s best interest to maintain a consistent and stable relationship with both parents.
The children’s preferences
Under California law, if the children are of sufficient age and wish to participate, the courts will allow children to express which parent they want to live with once they reach age 14. Judges may choose to listen to their preferences when they are under the age of 14 when deemed appropriate and in the children’s best interest. However, this is not the same as allowing them to pick where they wish to live, only that their preferences will be taken into consideration when making a determination. Children may only choose their residence when they turn 18 years of age.
Thus, courts no longer treat the mother preferentially when making a child custody determination. Instead, they focus on the impact it will have on the children and how to put them in a situation where they receive the ideal amount of physical, emotional, and overall care.