One of the most hotly-contested and complex issues in any divorce case is the issue of child custody. "Child custody" is the term for which parent gets to not only spend time with the child, but also make crucial decisions for them, such as where they live, where they go to school, and what religious upbringing they have.
There are two types of custody—sole and joint—and determining which will be awarded is a difficult process that ultimately ends in a family law judge’s decision.
The single most important underlying principle to a judge’s decisions regarding child custody is simple: what is in the best interest of the child? To make this determination, the court looks at a number of different factors. Let’s take a look at a few of them now.
Alcohol & Drug Use
It should come as no surprise that a parent with a history of alcohol and/or drug use is far less likely to receive custody than one who does not. However courts also will likely utilize the facts in the case to determine who is a better fit for the child. For example, a recovering alcoholic may be more likely to receive child custody than a father who has basically been absent in the lives of his children entirely.
Does one parent has a full-time job that they have dedicated the majority of their life to (and seem unwilling to change that for their family)? A parent who is more available to their children and more likely to change for their new situation is more likely to be granted custody. A parent who can spend more time with their child is far more likely to get custody than one who cannot.
If either parent has a history of domestic violence, regardless of whether or not the child was involved in it, the court will likely consider it when making their determination, and it never considers it in a positive way.
Financial standing does play a role in custody determination, however not as logic might initially dictate. If a parent’s finances prevent them from securing proper housing, then this is more strongly considered. However, it is not uncommon for parents who are not the better of the two in terms of financial standing to still be granted custody, along with a child support order for the non-custodial parent to help make ends meet.
Home environment plays a huge role in determining custody. If one home is completely not conducive to raising a child (i.e. loaded weapons laying unsecured everywhere, constantly messy and unhealthy surroundings, or stress and chaos running rampant), the court will likely grant the other parent custody. More often than not, however, the court must determine which home environment is better when neither of them are bad.
Mental & Emotional Stability
The court is going to be strongly inclined to award custody to a parent who demonstrates emotional and mental stability as opposed to one who, say, has severe anger issues or who has been shown to be unfit through testimony. This can include a parent’s willingness to foster the child’s relationship with the other parent—if one parent appears to be attempting to sabotage the other’s visitation with their children, then the court will likely look down heavily upon that and possibly even award custody to the other parent.
Having a skilled attorney on your side throughout the child custody determination process can significantly improve your chances of a satisfactory outcome.
At Friedman & Friedman, Attorneys at Law, we strive to help our clients through their case with top-tier service and experienced legal knowledge. We can help guide you through the stressful and emotionally-draining divorce process and help you reach the next chapter of your life with confidence.