Child Custody After Divorce
Who will have custody of the children?
Divorce affects different families in different ways. In any family where there are children, the issue of child custody is usually the most pressing. Therefore many of our initial consultations result in the client asking: “Who will get custody of the children?”
Parents can reach their own agreements about custody and visitation as long as it is fair to both parents and the children. If parents are not able to come into an agreement, then the custody decision will be made in court, usually by a family court judge.
Who gets custody of the children is decided primarily is based upon the best interests of the child involved. The court’s main consideration is always the child’s “best interest”. The main factor in deciding which parent will have full custody, is which parent has been the child’s “primary caretaker.” If the children are old enough, the court will take their preference into account in making a decision.
The best interest factors include:
- Each parent’s ability to provide a stable environment for the children
- How the child is currently adjusted to their home and school environment
- How long have the children been living in their current environment and how stable it is
- Which parent is more available to be active in the children’s life
- Any special needs the child may have
- Whether either parent is more suited to understand and care for a special needs child
- The child’s preference
- Any interference in a parent and child’s relationship by the other parent;
- Any misconduct by either parent during the custody dispute; and
- Any history of domestic violence or child abuse.
Divorce, itself is already an emotional matter and with children it can complicate things even more. It is best for parents to agree on the terms of custody to avoid any extra emotional trauma to the children.