How Is Child Custody Decided?

When parents divorce, a parenting plan should be created. This plan designates which parent gets custody of the child and which parent might be able to visit the child on a scheduled basis. There are several factors that can go into this determination and understanding them might assist you in planning your custody case. Read on to learn more.

When the parents agree – Not all child custody issues need to be acrimonious. When the parents agree on who makes the best physical custodian of the child the judge is very likely to approve the plan. Unless the court finds good reason not to approve it, your agreed upon plan will be made legal by the judge and entered into your final decree.

Parent/child relationships – In some cases, one parent has a much closer relationship with the child than the other. One parent may have traveled extensively or they may have been dealing with other issues that prevented them from forming strong bonds with the child. The judge might use the help of a mental health expert to evaluate the parent's relationship with the child before deciding.

The child's opinion – Family law judges know that the wishes of children are important but that no decision should rest on their opinion alone. Motivation is key because children might base their wishes on which parent spends the most money on them, gives the best gifts, or allows them the most freedom. The judge will balance their wishes, their age, and other factors when giving weight to their opinions.

The parent's relationship – Just because the relationship is ending with divorce doesn't mean that the parents should not get along well enough make things easier for their child. Unless one parent is severely unfit, both parents must show a willingness for the child to maintain and foster a good relationship with the other parent, regardless of who has actual custody of the child.

The parent's ability to care for the child – The living arrangements of the custodial parent will be evaluated to determine suitability. The home should be safe, clean, appropriate, and convenient. There is no need for the home to be luxurious or for the child to have their own room, but it should be in a safe neighborhood and convenient to schools, doctors, and other family members (preferably). The courts tend to place a premium on the parent who retains the family home because it means more stability and security for the child.

If your spouse is challenging your ability to be a custodial parent, take an pro-active stance and speak to your child custody attorney right away.