How Does a Judge Decide Child Custody?

by Andrew Olson on 04-21-2015 in Child Custody

How does a judge decide custodyUltimately, the job of the court is to figure out what is in the best interest of the child or children. Which parent can provide the best environment? Which parent can actually take care of the children? Where do the children actually want to live? These are just a few of the factors that go into awarding custody.

Parents must realize the ultimate decision for custody (unless the parents have already agreed upon it) is up to the judge. Being a person, his or her "judgment" is subjective. Having said that, there are some common factors judges will consider before making the final decision.

Age - while not always the case, the age of the children will determine which parent is chosen. This is a common outcome where the mother stays at home to take care of the children. If, however, the mother is working and the father has been home taking care of the children, the "norm" may not apply. Older children may actually be asked about their preference. This is not the only factor the judge will consider, but it could be something that makes him or her lean one way or the other in a close decision.

Abuse - if this is a case where abuse and/or neglect is an issue, the parent not associated with the abuse and/or neglect will likely be awarded full custody of the children.

Current Living Situation - how and where each parent is currently living will definitely be considered by the judge. For instance, if the father has left the home and is currently living in a studio apartment, how could he possibly move the children in? If you expect joint custody, how close is the second home to the home where the children currently reside? Is it possible for them to get to school, amongst other daily life events, from either home without dramatically altering their lives?

Existing Relationships with Children - just what type of relationship do the children currently have with each parent? Are they relying on one parent or are both parents active in their lives. If mom or dad is an absentee parent, he or she would be unlikely to win custody.  

Parental Relationship - how are the parents getting along concerning the children? Is one parent spouting off at every opportunity to badmouth the other parent? Is one parent being particularly difficult in making arrangements to pick up or drop off the children? The children are not pawns to use to get back at your ex and if they are being used in this manner, it will absolutely affect the final decision handed down by the judge.

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