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What does the court look for in child custody matters?

When you began discussing your divorce and how it would affect your children, you probably began hearing the phrase, "the best interests of the children." This is the standard that the court uses when making decisions regarding custody matters.

Okay, fair enough, but how does your definition of what is in your children's best interests differ from what this standard means to the court?

What the court looks for

When evaluating the custody agreement you and the other parent devised or making the decisions on your behalf, the court will consider the factors below, at a minimum:

  • What living arrangement provides the children with the most consistency possible? The court will look to disrupt the children's lives as little as possible.
  • How strong is the bond between each parent and each child?
  • How old are each of the children? Younger children would probably remain with the primary caregiver.
  • What arrangements provide the most safety for the children?
  • How well can each parent meet the emotional, physical and daily needs of the children? This is not just about money but also about providing love, support, food, clothing and more.
  • Is any impact on the children's current routines worth a change?

The court will also consider your relationship to the other parent. Which of you would willingly foster a relationship for the children with the other parent? The court needs to know that you will put your children's need to have time with the other parent ahead of your personal issues with your former spouse. This is especially important these days when joint custody arrangements are growing in popularity.

What you need to show the court

You will need to answer all of these questions for the court. It wants to see that you put your children's needs ahead of your own, especially now that your marital relationship with the other parent is over. Depending on your circumstances, you may need to make significant changes in your living arrangements in the aftermath of the divorce. You need to assure the court that the changes will serve the children's best interests, even if it disrupts the lives they had prior to the divorce.

Child custody matters are always fraught with emotion, which is why they can easily degrade into contentious court battles. Allowing this to happen could ultimately keep you from achieving your child custody goals. Instead, you may need to put aside your issues with the person you are divorcing and focus on him or her as the other parent who loves the children you share.

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