Child custody battles are one of the most contentious aspects of any divorce proceeding. The court will have to make a custody determination if parents are unable to reach an agreement on their own.
When courts make a custody decision, they focus on what will be in the “best interests of the child.” This is a rather squishy term. The court may look at several factors to help figure out what will be in the child’s best interests.
1. The health of the parents
The health and wellbeing of each parent are essential to raising a child. If there are serious concerns about a parent’s physical or mental health, the court will take those concerns into consideration.
2. The health and needs of the child
A child may have special needs or a health condition that requires extra care. If one parent is better suited to help meet the child’s needs, this will be a factor in the custody determination.
3. Relationships with relatives
If a child has a strong relationship with relatives of either party, such as grandparents, the court will take this under consideration.
4. The need for a stable home environment
Any child will experience some degree of upheaval when parents divorce. However, some children may adapt to this change better than others. The court may choose to place a child with one parent over the other if doing so will provide more stability in the child’s life.
5. The wishes of the child
Most children are given some voice when it comes to custody determinations. How much a child’s preferences matter to the court will depend on the child’s age and level of maturity.
Parent-child relationships are important
In the past, courts often gave preference to mothers over fathers when making custody determinations. Now, the law recognizes that children benefit from a relationship with both parents whenever possible. Even if a custody determination does not go the way you would like, you can still explore your options for maintaining a relationship with your child.