What factors does the court consider when making child custody determinations?
In making determinations about child custody, or parenting time, the courts ultimately consider what is in the best interests of the child. While the assumption is that maintaining a close relationship with each parent is in the child's best interests, there are 12 factors that guide these decisions. Rather than breaking down each factor, let's take a look at some of the basic considerations.
What is the primary concern in determining parenting time?
The overarching concern is the physical health and safety of the child. In short, each parent must have the ability and willingness to provide for basic necessities: food, clothing and medical care. At the same time, there may be mental and physical health issues of the parent(s) that influence the court. In particular a history of domestic violence and child abuse may lead the court to suspend visitation or require supervised visitation.
What role does the emotional bond with the parents play?
It is important to assess the role each parent has had in raising the child, and the relationship between the child and each parent. The courts generally strives to maintain stable living arrangements as well as continuity in relationships with friends and siblings.
What are co-parenting skills?
It is crucial for each parent to encourage a close relationship between the child and the other parent. In particular, if the court grants joint custody, each parent must demonstrate the ability to cooperate and reach mutual agreements on child rearing decisions.
Who is responsible for the child's educational needs?
The level of involved of each parent in the child's education is a critical factor. The court will consider whether the parents help the child with homework, attend parent-teacher conferences and the degree to which a child has participated in a particular religion.
Does the court consider issues of morality?
Questions of values and morality may factor into the courts custody determination if it affects parental fitness, including issues such as substance abuse, verbal abuse, illegal conduct, and other behaviors that could adversely affect a child's moral development.
What types of custody are there?
There are two types of custody, legal custody and physical custody. The first involve each parent's authority to be involved in major child rearing decisions such as health, education, medical care and general welfare. The latter refers to the which parent the child will reside with. If joint custody is awarded, the court may find that the child's best interest required having a primary home while spending a set amount of time at the other parent's home.
The Bottom Line on Parenting Time
In the end, courts generally prefer that parents reach agreements on their own regarding parenting time. If the parents cannot agree, the court will develop one. For this reason, it is essential to engage the services of an experienced family law attorney who can help negotiate an agreement on parenting time that is in the best interests of the child.