When the court has to rule on how child custody should be divided, they will attempt to put the child’s best interests first. This is seen as being more important than what the parents would want. Courts must make this ruling when parents cannot agree.
For instance, parents may both seek sole custody. But this is simply because they are at odds with one another as their marriage ends. The court might determine that joint custody would actually be better for the child. Since that’s their focus, they can order the parents to share custody, even if they don’t want to do so.
10 factors to keep in mind
When deciding what would be in a child’s best interests and how they should rule, the court will consider numerous factors. Below are ten to keep in mind.
- The parents’ mental and physical health, and their ability to care for the child
- The child’s mental and physical health
- The child’s age and gender
- The proximity of other family members
- The living situation both parents enjoy and can provide to the child
- If the child has any special needs
- If there is any evidence of abuse
- The financial security that both parents have
- The child’s education
- Cultural, religious and societal considerations
Finally, courts will even sometimes consider a child’s own preferences. But they generally will just listen to the preferences of older children, such as teenagers. Also, the court does not have to abide by those preferences if they think something else would actually be in the child’s best interests.
Overall, this can be a complex process to sort through. Those involved need to make sure they understand all of their legal options.