There are myriad factors that can influence child custody. The primary responsibility of the court in divorce proceedings involving custody is the welfare of the child, so they take many different things into account when determining custody. The financial situation of both parents, their mental health, who the child has a stronger emotional bond with, and if there are any abuse allegations are some of the factors used to determine custody.
The first thing to understand about child custody is that there are two different forms: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is generally awarded as joint custody, and it is concerned with the general state of how the child will be raised, their education, medical care, discipline, etc.
Physical custody, on the other hand, is all about where the child will be living and for how much time. Physical custody is usually more of what is being fought for in a custody battle.
Legal custody is generally only awarded as sole custody in cases where a parent has been abusive, the parents live too far apart to both be active in the decision-making process, there is disinterest by one parent, or the judge’s hand is forced by the refusal of one or both parents to accept joint legal custody. There are far more factors that go into determining physical custody.
That is the main question the court will ask when determining custody. According to B. Robert Farzad, a California divorce lawyer, more often than not, a parent wants to have a say in their child’s custody. You want to have some control over how much time you get with your child. If there has been a significant change in your situation, you may also want the option to modify your custody schedule.
If you find yourself in a custody battle these are some of the most important things you can do to influence your chances of increasing the time you get to spend with your child:
- Have a stable well paying job
- Have a suitable residence where your child can live
- Maintain your mental health, and if you have any conditions such as depression, make sure to be consistent with your medication
- Show that you know your child and are involved in their lives
- Hire a competent divorce lawyer
- Emphasize your strengths as a parent rather than attacking your former partner’s weaknesses
- Be on your best behavior, and don’t let the stresses of the divorce push you into bad decisions that can be used against you
- Don’t associate with unsavory characters
Obviously, what is best for the child is usually for the parents to come to an agreement outside of court rather than having a long contentious battle in court in which the child might be brought in and put in the middle of things.
While courts understandably don’t just place the child with the parent they say they want to go with, the child’s opinion is taken into consideration. Small children can’t be relied upon to make the decisions that are best for them, but they can help to provide insight into which parent they have the strongest connection. The court does not want to separate a child from a parent to which they have a strong emotional tie.
Having a healthy relationship with your child is important both in and out of divorce proceedings. Don’t lose track of your child’s life while caught up in all of the stress of the divorce, or you could find that the close bond that you have shared with your child, and which you will rely upon in your custody battle, has faded. This can end up working against you.
Child custody isn’t set in stone, and it can change over time from the initial ruling by the court. A parent can petition for a change to the custody agreement if there is evidence of significant changes to their situation or to the situation of their former spouse that potentially affects the child’s well being. Remember though, a change in your situation will not necessitate a change to your custody agreement unless it is deemed best for your child.