When Should Siblings Stick Together? / by Cassandra Hearn

The main goal of any parent is simply to protect their children. California law reflects these intentions by making the primary inquiry with any child custody case what is in a child’s best interest. Any custody or visitation decision will be made with that inquiry and those list of factors in mind. Interactions between parents and the children is articulated as one of the factors in the best interest determination. Other family relationships are also crucial to a child’s well-being, including the relationship between siblings.

In rare circumstances, parents may request that the siblings are divided between the parents, i.e. that each sibling lives the majority of time with separate parents. This is sometimes referred to as “split custody.”  These arrangements are strongly disfavored by courts. Sibling relationships are some of the most formative relationships in our lives, and studies have shown that the relationships between siblings can significantly benefit them later on. Moreover, siblings can also provide each other with comfort and stability during the chaotic time of divorce or a child custody case. Remaining together means that the siblings can provide an emotional anchor for one another, and help each other to process the complex emotions that accompany a separation. Splitting up children can be detrimental to their well-being, as divorce already requires vast amounts of change, and separating them from a valuable support system can inflict even more damage. California recognizes the importance of the sibling bond and policy requires that it be maintained whenever possible. California courts do not want children to be treated as the community property of the parents, being divided equally. Instead, courts recognize the fundamental and critical nature of the sibling relationship, and that the siblings have a right to maintain that bond.

There may be examples to this rule, but they are not common. If a sibling relationship is so contentious as to be abusive, then it may be a good idea to separate siblings. This argumentative interaction must be more than common sibling squabbles in order for a court to want to separate the siblings, though. Sometimes siblings will separate or exercise different visitation plans if there is a substantial age gap between the children such that each child’s need is quite divergent from the other.  It could also be possible to separate the siblings where one child has a highly aggressive relationship with one of the parents. In that situation, it may make more sense to send both children together to the parent with whom there is a minimum of conflict.

There is nothing more important that the best interest of your children and creating a custody order that will protect them. We have experience in helping our clients achieve this goal. Call us today at (619) 800-0384 to talk about your children.