How do judges make child custody decisions?

Issues surrounding child custody are one of the most contentious aspects of any divorce proceeding. In a perfect world, parents would be able to reach an easy custody agreement with one another. However, many times these issues prove to be intractable. When parents can’t reach an agreement, it’s up to the court to decide.

Trying to decide what’s right for the child

A judge will attempt to make a determination that is in the best interests of the child. To reach a decision, the judge will apply several different factors. These factors may include:

  • The age of the child
  • The child’s maturity level
  • The relationship bonds between the child and each parent
  • The child’s relationship with other relatives
  • The ability of each parent to care for the child
  • The physical and mental health of each parent
  • Any special needs of the child
  • The child’s wishes

A judge doesn’t have to apply all of the above factors. Some factors may be given more weight than others, depending on the unique circumstances of each situation. For example, the wishes of a five-year-old will probably receive less consideration than the wishes of a 15-year-old.

Parental relationships are important

In the past, the law often sided with the mother in custody disputes. Now, there is the recognition and acceptance that a child benefits from having a relationship with both parents whenever possible. Even if a custody decision does not pan out in the way you would have liked, it’s likely you will still receive some form of parenting time to maintain your relationship with your child.

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