Going through a divorce is stressful for all parties. While the divorce rate in the United States is at a 50-year low, plenty of couples every year find themselves in the unfortunate position of going their separate ways.
When you have children, it’s even more complicated.
Child custody makes even the most amicable of divorces more stressful. If parents can’t agree, lawyers have to step in and the judge makes a final decision.
But what are the most important factors in child custody? What should you be keeping in mind while negotiations are going on? Do you know what’s best for your child?
We’re here to answer some of those questions. Keep reading to learn about all of the things that factor into the child custody decision.
Overall: The Child’s Best Interests
The most important thing when it comes to any child custody agreement is whatever is in the best interests of the child. The court understands that parents often get caught up in the divorce as it pertains to them. Even the most well-intentioned parent can get caught up in the heat of the negotiations.
Because of this, the judge is always going to prioritize the needs and wellbeing of the children that are involved.
The court wants to give both parents custody. Having access to both parents is good for childhood development, so full custody isn’t common. With that in mind, there are always exceptions.
This varies from situation to situation. All judges have their own biases and factors, but there are a few things that you can guarantee will go into their decision.
History of Abuse or Violence
This factor can be make-or-break. If one spouse has a history of domestic abuse or violence (either against the child or another family member), they are unlikely to receive custody.
The judge may determine that the non-custodial parent is able to have more parental rights after they seek counseling, but this is something that you’ll need to discuss with your family law attorney.
Ability to Provide for the Child
As with all aspects of the divorce process, money is a factor. The court wants to know that a parent is capable of providing for their child’s needs.
This isn’t a determining factor. It’s common for one parent to provide child support, even if both parents have custody. The goal is to ensure that the child is going to be able to maintain their quality of life after the divorce.
A parent needs to be able to handle medical care and emotional wellness, as well as provide food, shelter, and all other necessities.
Providing for a child is only one aspect of being a caregiver. The judge will determine who is able to give the highest quality of life (and whether or not equal custody is an option).
Sometimes the child’s age factors into this. If the child is an infant and still reliant on the mother, or if one parent stays at home to take care of young children, that parent may get more custody.
The judge wants to know that both parents are able to provide a stable environment. If someone is moving frequently or between jobs, this may not look good for child custody.
The judge will also look into how much of an adjustment the divorce will be for the child. If one parent is moving to a different school district, for example, the judge will factor in how difficult it would be for the child to adjust.
The final aspect of caregiving is protecting your child’s emotional wellbeing. This means that neither parent should be standing in the way of the other parent. The judge wants to know that, regardless of their decision, parents won’t cut off access.
Mental and Physical Health
The health of the child and the health of the parents factor into child custody.
As we mentioned, caregiving is an important factor. A parent who is unable to care for the child due to their physical or mental health struggles isn’t likely to receive full custody (especially for young children).
If your child struggles with health issues, the judge may determine if one house is more accessible than the other, or if one parent is better able to provide healthcare than the other.
Wishes of the Child
If the child is old enough to voice their wishes, the judge will take them into consideration.
Children don’t always know what’s best for them, and a temperamental child may not be able to make a rational decision. That said, child custody impacts the child more than it does the parents.
Older children have more sway in this area, but if a child is able to speak for themselves, they’ll factor in.
Wishes of the Parents
Your wishes also matter, especially if you’ve gone through successful child custody mediation.
It’s best if both parents agree. If you can determine the right answer for both of you, this is a non-issue. If not, the judge still wants to know how you feel and your desires will matter.
These Are the Most Important Factors In Child Custody Decisions
You and your former spouse want what’s best for your child. Remember that while this divorce may be traumatic for you, the child custody decision is going to affect them for the rest of their life.
Consider the most important factors in child custody decisions and try to work together with your former spouse and your attorney to determine an answer that works for everyone involved. Divorces aren’t easy, but it’s your duty to make your divorce as painless as possible for your child.
Are you in need of a great divorce attorney in Augusta, GA? At Blake and Detchemendy Law Firm, our family lawyers want to support you. Contact us so we can start helping you today.