How do courts determine who gets custody of children in a divorce?


If the parents cannot agree on custody and visitation arrangements for their child, the courts decide custody based on “the best interests of the child.” 

Focusing on the child’s best interests means that all custody and visitation decisions are made with the ultimate goal of fostering the child’s happiness, safety and security, mental and physical health, and emotional development through the years into early adulthood.  Generally, this involves maintaining a close relationship with both parents, which can be challenging when they are going through the emotional stages of a divorce.  

Every family situation is unique and requires individualized analysis, but many factors of the following factors are commonly considered when determining the best interests of the child. While no one is the most important factor, the overall concern is the safety and well-being of the child.

  • Mental and physical health of the parents
  • Age of the child
  • Special needs of the child 
  • Adjustment to school and community
  • Religion and cultural considerations
  • Continuation of a safe and stable home environment
  • Siblings or other children whose custody is relevant
  • Opportunity for interaction with members of the extended family of either parent (grandparents, aunts/uncles)
  • Interaction and interrelationship with other members of household
  • Domestic violence in the home
  • Excessive discipline or emotional abuse
  • Evidence of parental drug, alcohol or child/sex abuse

We are experienced at navigating the complexities of custody cases. Please contact us for a consultation to see how we can help you.

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