2024 How to Get Full Custody of a Child as a Father in California

We’re here to alleviate stress and provide compassionate law advice.

April 28, 2024

Parenting is a tough job that is filled with huge responsibilities. Ensuring that a child is cared for and loved and that their basic needs are met requires significant amounts of effort. While many children experience the benefits of a two-parent home, some relationships don’t work out. When this happens, it can raise many questions. For many dads, they are left wondering how to get full custody of a child as a father in California.

Unfortunately, there still exist assumptions that a mother will automatically be awarded custody. With the right information and legal team, a father can be prepared to fight for custody of their children and challenge the assumption.

 The Best Interests of the Child

California seeks to place children with parents based on what is in their best interests. This determination is made independently of any discriminatory factors such as the age, race, religion, or gender of the parent. When fighting for custody of their child, a father should not make assumptions that the mother will automatically be granted custody and should instead stick to the evidence that helps to prove they can provide for their child and meet their needs.

When deciding what is best for the child, the court will order custody in one of two ways. First, they will determine physical custody of the child. If one parent is awarded sole physical custody, and it is in the best interests of the child, the other will be granted visitation rights. The parents can share physical custody, meaning the child will spend roughly the same amount of time with each parent.

Second, they will determine how to apply legal decision-making authority for things related to the child, such as healthcare, education, religious affiliation, and more. If granted as joint custody, both parents will share equitable responsibility for these choices. If granted solely, the parent will have sole responsibility in making these choices but should keep the other parent informed.

The hope, however, is that regardless of the court order, the parents of the child will find a willingness to co-parent in order to bring consistency and support to the child.

Unique Challenge for Fathers

One of the unique challenges that a father will face in a custody battle is first proving they are the father of the child. The proof of a biological connection between a child and their mother is assumed and does not need to be proven in court. Unfortunately, for some fathers, particularly those who were in relationships in which they were never married, the connection is not always as obvious.

There are several ways to determine the parental connection between a father and a child. These include:

  • The father signs the birth certificate at the time of birth
  • A Declaration of Paternity is signed by both the mother and father, acknowledging the paternal connection
  • Documentation is signed in court declaring the father’s connection to the child
  • The father submits to a DNA test that can confirm the child’s connection to the father

Without the established paternal connection, the father cannot be granted any rights while fighting for custody of the child.

Presenting Evidence

In the fight to gain custody of your child, a father will need to provide evidence from personal testimony, professional evaluations, a parenting plan, and more to show they are prepared to meet the needs of the child and that their home is in the child’s best interests. The evidence presented should focus on the following:

  • They are able to provide a stable home environment that includes emotional stability, routine, safety, and more.
  • There may be better opportunities for educational choices in the area in which the father resides or plans to reside.
  • The environment at home nurtures the child’s growth and provides the emotional and physical support they need, including their and your involvement in extracurricular activities.
  • Ensuring there is a physically safe environment in and around the home that protects the child from violence, meets their medical needs, and meets their daily physical and nutritional needs.
  • The willingness to work with the child’s other parent to provide the child with a co-parenting plan that builds consistency and support for the child between both parents.

These are just a few of the arguments that a father can make to present their case for gaining custody of their child.


Q: How Can a Father Get Primary Custody in California?

A: A father can get primary custody of their child by presenting evidence that it is in the child’s best interests. This begins first by ensuring they are recognized by the law as the parent. They can then provide testimony and evidence that establishes they are able to support the child’s needs both in and out of the home and bring stability to the child’s life by providing physical and mental safety.

Q: What Rights Do Fathers Have in California for Child Custody?

A: California laws establish several rights for fathers for child custody. As the father, you have the right to custody and to decision-making. If not granted custody, you have the right to visitation. You have the right to receive child support if granted custody, and you have the right to seek modifications to court orders involving child custody.

Q: What Do Judges Look for in Child Custody Cases in California?

A: In child custody cases, judges look for what is in the best interests of the child. This includes the child’s age and health, the connection the child shares with each parent, the child’s involvement in school or community, the history of family violence or substance abuse, and other factors related to the physical and mental well-being of the child.

Q: How Long Does a Father Have to Be Absent to Lose His Rights in California?

A: If a father is absent from their child’s life for a minimum of six months, they could lose their parental rights. Under the law, if either parent knowingly leaves their child in the care of another without any attempt to help support the needs of the child or contact them in any way, the parent could be accused of abandonment, at which time they could lose their rights as a parent.

California Child Custody Attorney

Being a father can bring immense joy. Unfortunately, for those who are seeking to gain custody of their child to continue building those memories, the process can be difficult and frustrating. You will likely have many questions that need thorough answers. Get the support you deserve by reaching out to the Law Offices of Hollie A. Lemkin, APC.

Call today to speak with Hollie A. Lemkin to discuss your questions & issues!


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