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What is a presumption of joint custody?

California courts make custody decisions on the basis of what is in the child’s interests. Based on the evidence, a judge can order that both parents share custody equally or that one parent receive sole custody and the other have visitation.

According to California Legislative Information, since 1994 the law has also presumed that joint custody is in the interest of the child. This affects the way that one or both parents approach the court when requesting joint custody.

What does the presumption mean?

Decades of research demonstrate that, according to Stat News, children who have nearly equal time with each parent have better long-term outcomes than those who do not. The presumption that joint custody is in the child’s interests affects the burden of proof. The law accepts it as a given that joint custody is in the child’s interest, meaning that it is not necessary to produce as much evidence to that effect.

What if joint custody is not in the child’s interest?

The legal presumption is rebuttable, meaning that if there is evidence that joint custody would not be in the child’s interest, one of the parties can present it to the court for the judge’s consideration. A judge who agrees that joint custody would not be in the child’s interest is free to order a different custody arrangement.

While the law does not prevent a judge from denying a request for joint custody, he or she has to explain why or why not. It is not enough just to state that joint custody is not in the child’s interest.