What does a judge evaluate when determining child custody?
In cases where custody is disputed, a judge will look at several factors to determine how custody should be divided. It’s important to remember that no two cases are similar and therefore judges weigh certain factors differently. In all cases, the end goal is to create an agreement that is in the best interest of the child.
Abuse or Other Wrongdoings
First and foremost, a judge will want to know if either parent is unfit to have custody of the child. Any form of abuse or neglect will likely result in a judge deciding that that parent is unfit to care for the child. Other issues with a parent, such as drug or alcohol abuse, would be weighed quite heavily as well.
The Parents’ Living Situations
A judge is far more likely to give primary custody to a parent who has a stable living situation if the other parent’s living situation is constantly changing. A good example of this is if a couple divorces and one parent keeps the family home while the other parent moves out. Keeping the child with the parent who still resides in the house would allow the child some sense of stability. This is especially the case if the child would have to change schools and leave friends or relatives if he/she moved out of the family house.
The Child’s Relationship With the Parents
Stability is key when establishing custody. An experienced judge will likely consider which living arrangements will make the child most comfortable. If one parent rarely spends time with the child or simply doesn’t have a good relationship with the child, they may be less likely to receive primary custody. If the child is older, a judge might even consider what the child’s wishes are.
The Parents’ Relationship With Each Other
This may be a factor in situations where one parent is far more open about encouraging their child to have a relationship with the other parent. The goal is to make sure that the child has fair access to both parents (as long as it is healthy and safe for this to happen). If one parent’s personal grievances will hinder their child’s relationship with the other parent, it may be more difficult to get custody.
The Child’s Age
Finally, judges typically also consider the age of the child. If a child is still a baby and unlikely to remember their life with both parents living together, age might not be a concern. However, the older a child is, the more likely that a judge will consider this factor more heavily.
Establishing Custody Outside the Courtroom
It’s also possible for parents to establish custody without having a judge decide for them. This may occur if both parents agree on how custody should be split, or if they agree that one parent should have sole custody. They may still have to go through legal proceedings to make this agreement legally official, but these would likely be a lot shorter and simpler than in cases where parents cannot agree. In either situation, it’s a good idea to speak with a child custody lawyer Bloomington trusts about your situation.
Thank you to our friends and contributors at Pioletti & Pioletti Attorneys at Law for their insight into family law and child custody.