In an ideal situation, couples will be able to enter into the divorce process with a willingness to cooperate with one another and a commitment to reaching the best possible parenting time arrangement for their children. The reality is that many couples are unable to do this and court intervention becomes necessary.
When a court takes on the role of making child custody decisions, the primary concern is not going to be about what the parents want, but what is in the best interests of the children. Courts take into account a variety of factors when making best interests determination. Some of these factors relate to the parents themselves, the child, to their relationship, and to their circumstances.
· The following are among the factors courts weigh in child custody disputes:
· The emotional connection between the parents and the child;
· The ability of each parent to meet the needs of the child, including education, food, clothing, and medical care;
· The moral fitness of each parent to raise the child;
· Any history of domestic violence;
· The mental and physical health of all parties;
· The reasonable preferences of the child;
· The ability of the parties to cooperate in the child’s ongoing relationship with the other parent;
Judges have significant discretion in weighing the various factors under consideration. For parents, this can be difficult, because the focus on the child and the discretion of the judge can make them feel like the decision is out of their hands.
The truth, though, is that it is important for parents to work with an experienced attorney to represent them in child custody proceedings. This ensures that the judge has all the information necessary, and is advised with the proper perspective on the various factors, to make an informed and carefully considered decision.