If you are getting divorced and there are children involved the odds are good that you’re going to undertake at least some kind of rudimentary custody arrangement through the courts, even if you have amicably decided on custody between the two of you.
Particularly if you are an unmarried parent, you may be wondering how custody is determined by the court system and what will happen in your case.
Of course, it goes without saying that the laws differ from state to state. In most cases, custody is determined by the following factors in nearly every state.
Above every other factor, the courts will always consider the “best interests of the child” when they are determining custody of the child. In order to do determine what is best for the child. specific guidelines are used. These guidelines include some or all of the following:
Which parent interacts with the children most often, is responsible for household upkeep, for minor things such as dressing the child, cooking the majority of meals and other things.
Which parent takes the children out most often for things like outings, play dates, doctors appointments, school functions and so on. This will be determined by the child, other family members in close proximity, doctors office workers, teachers, all of which will likely be questioned if there is a contention.
- The age of the child.
- How well the parents interact.
- Whether one parent has a history of belittling or abusing or denigrating the authority of another parent in view of the child or children.
- How well the parents communicate on an adult and professional level with each other and the children.
- History of verbal abuse of the child or the spouse.
- The relationship of the parents at the time of the custody hearing.
- Mental and physical health of the child and the parent’s ability to cope with that.
- Mental health of the adult parents.
- Parents work schedule and whether it impacts the parents ability to spend at least 8 hours a day with the child.
- Household accommodations.
- A history of substance abuse, criminal activity, or mental health concerns involving either parent.
While all of these are taken into account they are not the be-all and end all. In many cases, the best interest of the child is criticized because it is so broad spectrum as to be nearly impossible to use. If one parent shows better in ten mor more of the categories it is an easy task to select but if more than one for example has a criminal background and substance abuse? What if both parents are more than five years clean and sober. Which parent would be the ideal solution, all other things being equal?
Appellate courts seem to be loathe to suggest any specific formula that Probate & Family Court judges should follow when determining custody so very often it is left to the judge who undertakes the case to determine the right formula..