Going through a divorce can be a very difficult process – having to separate marital assets, property, finances, and other items during this time can be stressful, frustrating, and emotional. Even though this seems difficult enough for anyone, some divorcing couples also have to deal with child custody issues during this process. Delaware family courts and most other state courts will always encourage parents to try to create a workable child custody arrangement on their own, to help keep both parents involved for the benefit of their shared children, as well as themselves.

If the parents are unable to come to this agreement on their own or with the help of mediation, they will generally petition the family court to help make a child custody ruling. When this occurs, Delaware judges will take all aspects of the situation into consideration and will always make a decision that is truly in the best interest of the children, even if it is not what the parents have requested.

Child Custody Laws in Delaware

When Delaware family court judges are tasked with making a child custody ruling, they will always base their assessment of the case and their final decision on what will most benefit the children who are involved. All family court systems, in every state, hold the children’s well-being in the highest regard and will always work to make decisions that will benefit them. Some of the decisions the court will need to make are set by state law, and others it will made are based on a variety of factors.

Types of Child Custody in Delaware

Professionals have determined that keeping both parents actively involved in the children’s lives is in their best interest in terms of their emotional state and their development. With this in mind, Delaware courts will generally try to keep both parents involved even after they are no longer a couple, and this is most often accomplished through awarding joint custody. Joint custody can be categorized in one of three ways:

  • Joint Physical Custody: Where the children spend time living with both parents
  • Joint Legal Custody: Where both parents have the right and responsibility to make joint decisions regarding the children’s upbringing
  • Both Joint Physical and Legal Custody

Regardless of what type of custody arrangement the judge is looking at, he or she will consider a number of factors to help make this decision and choose an arrangement that will be beneficial to the children. Some of these factors will include, but are not limited to:

  • Whether the parents have developed their own parenting plan
  • If the parents are living geographically close enough to make a joint custody arrangement feasible
  • If the parents have the capacity to work together to make decisions and communicate effectively
  • If the parents have the capacity to encourage and foster a positive and loving relationship between the children and the other parent
  • If either of the parents have any signs of abusive behavior in their past

Delaware judges also have the ability to make a temporary child custody order before they make their final ruling. This is usually implemented when a joint custody arrangement is desirable, but not may be feasible, or if the court needs to determine which parent will make the better primary guardian when a joint arrangement is not possible. This period of time, which is usually no more than six months, gives each parent the opportunity to demonstrate their ability and willingness to parent and work together.

What Determines Child Custody in Delaware

When making a decision about who will be the primary custodial parent, Delaware judges will look at both parents and evaluate their ability to be a care provider for the children. Including their moral character and physical, emotional, and financial ability to care for the children, the judge will look at these factors as well when making a final decision:

  • Each parent’s commitment to the children’s educational needs
  • Each parent’s commitment to developing the children’s relationships with the other parent, other family members, their peers, and members of the community
  • Each parent’s capacity to make important decisions regarding the children’s upbringing including decisions about their medical care, education, and other important matters
  • Each parent’s willingness to follow the arranged child custody ruling
  • Each parent’s willingness to encourage a positive, loving relationship between the children and the other parent

Child Custody Modification in Delaware

Modifications to child custody agreements are something that can be likely to happen after a child custody arrangement has been made. There are a number of reasons why a modification may be needed. In general, if both parents agree to the modification, they do not necessarily need to go to court to have it approved and legally binding, although this may be in their best interest. If one parent is requesting a modification and the other parent does not agree, that parent will need to submit a request for modification to the court in order for it to be reviewed and either approved or denied.

When making a request for modification, the requesting parent will need to prove the following:

  • They have had a significant change in their circumstances in which a modification is needed
  • A modification is needed in order to uphold the well-being of the children
  • The modification will benefit the children in such a way that the disturbances it causes to their life during the transition period will be justified

Child Custody and Relocation in Delaware

One of the many reasons why a modification may need to be made is if one parent wishes to relocate and take the children with them. When relocating, if the other parent does not agree, the relocating parent will need to submit a request for approval to the Delaware family court system – this is especially true should the parent planning to move across state lines or a significant distance away from the other parent. Some of the reasons a relocation may be needed include:

  • Change in employment for the parent
  • Wanting/needing to be close to immediate family members
  • Availability of better educational and social opportunities for the children in another area

When the Delaware court system receives a relocation request, it will look at a number of different factors before either approving or denying that request. Again, the best interests of the children are the most important aspect of any child custody agreement or modification, so their benefits are the judge’s top priority. Some of the factors a court judge will consider when ruling include:

  • If the non-relocating parent is contesting the move and why
  • The reason why the relocating parent is making the request
  • The children’s ages and genders
  • The perceived benefits the relocation will have for the children
  • The relationships between the children and both of the parents and how these relationships will be affected
  • What alternative communication methods are available and how much those alternatives cost to keep the children in touch with the non-relocating parent
  • If any of the children have special needs, including emotional, mental, physical, or educational needs
  • Possibly seeking the child’s input on preferred living arrangements (usually only considered with older children)

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