Last Updated: December 19, 2022
Many factors go into child custody decisions and knowing what the most important factors are is essential to winning a custody battle. During a divorce, the parents are faced with possibly having their rights to see their children restricted or even removed. A custody battle can be bitter and emerging victorious requires knowledge of the law and the ability to persevere. A child custody lawyer (that provides free consultations) can make the process much easier and less stressful for all involved.
Child Custody Decisions: Types of Custody
Most states essentially break the issue of custody (also called ‘guardianship’ or ‘the allocation of parental responsibilities’) up between decision making and parenting time. The four types of custody are: physical, legal, joint, and sole. Physical custody is the right to live with the child and legal custody is the right to make decisions regarding the life of the child. Sole custody can result in one parent having limited involvement and joint custody enables both parents to remain involved in the lives of their children. A judge may order joint or sole physical custody and joint or sole legal custody of the children.
Physical Child Custody Decisions
Whether physical custody is awarded as sole custody or joint custody, each parent will likely be given some amount of parenting time with the kids. Sole physical custody does not necessarily mean that the other parent does not get parenting time, but oftentimes, it simply means one parent has the majority of parenting time versus the other parent. When parents are awarded joint physical custody, it normally means that the parents are sharing parenting time close to 50/50.
Legal Child Custody Decisions
The courts will also order legal custody to be awarded to the parents. Because this involves decision making abilities over the kids, (and not physical parenting time), the judge will want specifics to be made clear to avoid future problems. Ordinarily, legal custody decisions are made based on whether the parents can get along or not. If the parents, while maybe no longer being friendly with each other, can still get along to do what’s best for the kids, joint legal custody (also called joint decision making or joint / shared allocation of parental responsibility) can work. If the parents can’t get along or agree on child related issues, sole legal custody might be awarded to one parent over the other.
Agreement on Child Custody Decisions
Parents may be able to reach a child custody and visitation agreement out of court with the input of a mediator, counselor, or custody lawyer. In this situation, there is no standard result regarding custody. Possible arrangements include joint physical and legal custody or sole physical custody with a visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent. So long as both parents agree on a parenting plan and the judge agrees it is in the child’s best interests, a court order can be entered quickly and easily.
Contested Child Custody Decisions
Many times, parents can’t come to an agreement regarding child custody issues. When this happens, the parents will need to utilize the resources of the court to have their differences hashed out. If the child custody case goes to court, a family court judge is typically responsible for the child custody decision. Most courts consider a standard set of factors and follow the same procedure. Whether the decision is made in court or through parental agreement, the factors considered are usually the same. The best interest of the child is the standard that all 50-states follow (and they vary slightly between each state).
Best Interests of the Child Factors
The most common factors that states use to determine the best interests of the child (the standard for child custody decisions in all 50-sates) are the following:
- The emotional ties between the child and the parents
- Stability of the child’s living arrangements
- The health and safety of the child
Many other factors go into the ‘best interests of the child’ standard. All factors need to be taken into account as a whole No single factor will affect child custody decisions by itself (except for abuse of a child). Aspects like religion, culture, the physical and mental health of the parents, the need to maintain a stable home environment, support and interaction with extended family members, sex and age of the child, and adjustment to community and school. Interrelationships and interactions with other household members may also be considered. Parental factors like emotional abuse, excessive discipline, and evidence of sexual, drug, or alcohol abuse will also affect the decision.
When both parents attempt to win custody of kids, things can get ugly. The judge must consider many factors in order to uphold the best interest standard for child custody decisions. An experienced child custody lawyer can help parents exercise their custody rights so they receive amount and type of custody to which they are entitled. Getting a free consultation is easy, and a perfect place to start!