How does the judge decide who will have custody?

California law says that judges must award custody according to the "best interests" of your children. Judges decide what the best interests are, but they must consider the children's health, safety and welfare. Here are some general guidelines that judges follow: In most cases, judges give custody to either one parent or both parents. Occasionally, however, custody could be given to someone else such as a friend or relative. (See # 10) If both parents ask for "joint custody" (See # 4) which means that they share custody, the judge usually will grant it. Suppose a judge decides on "sole" or "primary" custody, which means that one parent has primary responsibility for bringing up the children. The judge will consider which parent can do the better job in caring for the children's needs and is more likely to allow the other parent to see the children often. A judge also may consider where a child will find the most wholesome and stable home. To decide this, the judge could rely on the evaluation. (See # 2) The evaluation might tell how close the home is to schools and relatives and how much supervision a parent can give the children. However, the judges decision is not based on how much money each parent has or earns. California custody laws have changed a good deal in the past few years. Courts no longer automatically give custody to mothers instead of fathers, even for small children. And generally, a court cannot deny custody or visiting rights simply because the parents were never married to each other or because on of them has a physical disability or unconventional lifestyle, religious belief or sexual preference.