As if divorce is not in itself difficult, couples who sadly have to end their relationship this way also deal with an even worse situation – ensuring the welfare and wellbeing of their children.
Child custody is about which parent makes the most important decisions in the life of their children. There are four types of child custody in the U.S. They are: physical, legal, joint and sole custody. Physical custody means that the parent has the right to live with his or her children whereas legal custody means that the parent has the right and obligations over decisions concerning the child’s upbringing. While one parent may have sole custody over their children, the other can be granted visitation rights.
Child custody is a serious matter which only the courts can decide on. There are several factors that courts consider when determining whose parent will have primary custody, along with the visitation rights of the other. All of these are centered on the best interest of the child.
But what is in the best interests of the child? To answer this question, we take a look at the following factors:
The child’s emotional health is equally important to their general health and wellness. Among all others, the court wants to identify which parent the child has deeper emotional ties with. This can be determined by taking into account who has more knowledge of the child’s interests, likes, etc., and who has the tendency to care for the child's needs. The emotional tie also reflects the quality of the child’s relationship with their parents. The court determines which parent the child is more comfortable to be around.
Another important factor that determines who takes over the child’s custody is the physical and mental state of the parent. It goes without saying that the parent who is in a great physical and mental state is more capable of caring for their children and raising them. If a parent is suffering from a serious condition, such as depression, uncontrolled anger, or illness, he or she is likely to be bestowed with custody rights.
The court will always consider the parent’s ability to provide for their child. The most important financial consideration is the living arrangements (whose parent has room for their children, and who lives in a safe and clean neighborhood). The court also checks the parent’s financial reliability and their ability to provide a stable and loving home. Of course, money issues are inevitable. But it is every parent’s duty to find ways to meet their child’s needs.
While children are not always the best judge of what is best for them, their opinion and wishes matter too. They may want to live with only one parent, or they never want to see one of their parents. Of course, when making decisions based on the child’s opinion, the court considers their age and the reason for their opinion.
Another factor that influences the court’s decision is the wishes of the parents. For instance, both parties may request a joint legal custody wherein both of them have the right to make decisions concerning their child’s education, health, and wealth, among others. However, one (or both) may fight for sole custody wherein the parent retains the legal and physical custody of the child.
This is a major consideration that the court has to make. Apart from any actual incidents of abuse or neglect, the court will also consider allegations of the same.
Divorce settlements are always difficult to deal with. One of the major issues that courts have to decide on is child custody. And the decision about who should have custody of the child is not for the divorced parents to make. It is the court’s responsibility to determine who is more capable of taking care of the child based on the factors mentioned above. Additionally, there are more factors that the court might consider, depending on the progress of the case. It is every judge’s goal to make a decision based on who is capable of giving the child the opportunity to grow in a healthy environment. In cases where one parent is given sole custody, the other may be given visitation rights, which include frequent communication and regular visit as well as obligation to provide financial support.