If you ask the divorce court what they're going to use as a measuring stick when trying to determine how to divide child custody, they will tell you that they're just going to consider what is in the child's best interests. The overall goal is to determine what will be best for the child and then to make the plan accordingly, even if the parents would have preferred something else.
For instance, parents will often go to court and say that they each want to get sole custody of the child in a contentious divorce. But the court typically believes that shared custody is in the child's best interests, so they will make that sort of ruling with the focus on the child.
What other factors are considered?
Since every divorce is unique and family dynamics have to be examined, there are many potential factors that may be considered when determining what will be best for the child. Just a few of them are listed below:
- The main caretaker: If one parent was clearly the main caretaker and the other parent wasn't very involved, the court will try to introduce stability into the child's life by allowing them to spend more time with that caretaker.
- The parents' health: The court will look at the mental and physical health of the parents and the child to determine if those will play a role in their ability to care for that child.
- A problematic history: If the parent in question has any sort of history that raises red flags, such as violent criminal convictions or allegations of abuse, these can factor in heavily. Safety for the child is always a primary concern.
- The child's wishes: Children are not allowed to pick where they live, in most cases, but older children are allowed to express their wishes and these will be considered along with all the other factors.
- The parents' schedules: This is especially an issue if parents are in the military or travel a lot for work. The court is going to consider who can realistically live with the child most of the time and give them a stable living situation near their friends and school.
Again, these are not all of the factors that the court will consider, but it helps to show you what they're thinking about as you move forward with your divorce case and consider your legal options.