What Factors Affect Child Custody Decisions?

child custody, gavel, blocks

Divorce is typically a challenging time and a period of transition. This can be even harder when there are children involved and each parent wants to have custody. In some cases, child custody decisions can be mediated, but in others, the matter needs to be handled and determined in family court. If you’re going through divorce, then here’s a look at the common factors that will affect your case.

Mental and Physical Health

One of the main factors that will influence the custody decision is the mental and physical health of both parents. The judge will review health records and other factors to determine which parent is most fit to care for the children. It follows, then, that a parent struggling with addiction or other mental health issues has little chance of gaining custody compared to an addiction-free and mentally-sound parent. This is an important factor in the court system because addiction recovery is often a lifelong process. As The Recovery Village explains, “When it comes to moving on from heroin and other opioids, there is usually no quick fix or simple resolution. After completing a treatment program, a person healing from a heroin addiction is typically in recovery their entire life.” Parents who struggle with addiction should understand that proving long-term sobriety will prove integral to any custody case.

When it comes to the court’s considerations of parental health, the highest priority of the court must always be given to the best interests of the child. Where addiction is in play, parents are often blinded to the impact their addiction has on their ability to parent their children. For parents who struggle with sobriety, healthcare technologies can keep them accountable and monitor their addiction. Such technologies are useful, because parents are more likely to abstain from substance abuse if they know that the court can monitor them and determine that they are incapable of providing adequate parental care.

Changes to Life

Since the divorce process is already so challenging for a child to deal with, the family law system will usually look for a way to minimize other changes to the child’s life. According to Mundahl Law, “How these major changes affect a child will depend in part upon his or her age, temperament, and any special needs. Remember, too, that while divorce may make life feel out-of-control for parents, it has an even more profound effect on children, who have literally no control over the decision or the process.”

In situations of divorce, the family law court will typically look to find one of the parents that is able to keep the child in the same school system and preferably the same home. This will allow for a much smoother overall transition and can help the child continue to see friends and classmates.

Child’s Preference

While it can be very hard to ask a child to decide who they want to live with, many family court cases end up being decided by the child. Older children that are already in school will often be given the choice to break the tie and their decision will go a long way into deciding the fate of the court decision.

However, Farzad Family Law reminds that “It should not be assumed that a child’s preference, regardless of the age, will carry the day in court. Family law judges have the discretion to listen to a child’s preference but not necessarily follow every aspect of it.”

Fathers Fighting For Custody

It is no secret that fathers fighting for custody have their work cut out for them. If possible, begin with mediation instead of a legal battle to try and settle the custody dispute. Then, if mediation cannot solve the issue, move forward to court. Put as much effort as you can into communicating, and compromise where possible unless doing so would not be in the best interest of the child or children. It is definitely possible for fathers to win full custody or joint custody, so don’t lose hope. To give yourself the best chance of gaining custody, you need to show that you are a mentally stable, responsible individual, that has an interest in loving, disciplining, and teaching your child the skills they will need to become a successful adult.

In conclusion, determining the ultimate custody of a child is a very challenging and difficult process. The decision set forth by the family court will depend on a variety of factors. Before you let divorce disrupt your family relationships and derail your future goals, reach out for help with navigating this new challenge.

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