When a California custodial parent is heading to jail, dealing with temporary or permanent child custody changes can be stressful. However, there is a process in place for figuring out where the children will go if the custodial parent can suddenly no longer care for them.

The courts make child custody decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child. When the court first determines who the child’s primary caregiver will be, a number of factors are taken into consideration. This includes considering the parent’s ability to financially and physically care for the child, whether or not the parent and the child have an emotional bond and if the parent is willing to support the child’s relationship with the other parent. The parent’s job and other habits, such as excessive drinking, may also be considered.

If the custodial parent goes to jail. child protective services may immediately look to place the child with the noncustodial parent or another family member. However, the court will still need to determine what decision will be in the best interest of the child.

When a custodial parent suddenly becomes unable to provide care for their child, the noncustodial parent or family member does not obtain child custody by default. A custodial parent who has been taken into custody should work with a family law attorney to help ensure that their child is taken care of properly while the parent is serving their sentence. For example, if the noncustodial parent has a history of abuse and the custodial parent does not believe that they can care for the child properly, the attorney may assist with representing a family member or close family friend who can watch the child temporarily or even permanently.