When you discuss the way the courts approach divorce cases, people usually probably bring up the fact that they always try to work toward the child’s best interests. When making custody decisions, what is best for the child is what the court is going to give preference to, not the parents.
It makes sense that they would take this approach, but you may find yourself wondering exactly how they define it. What do the best interests actually mean? How is this going to influence the decisions that the court makes? It’s important to understand how they view this situation so that you can consider the options you have and the steps that you need to take.
A variety of factors
One thing to remember is that every divorce case is different, so there are going to be different factors for each family and each set of children. The court has to look at your unique situation and decide how these factors are going to line up. But there are a few general things that they will be considering, which are listed below:
- Which parent was the child’s main caretaker?
- Will the child have to adjust to a new living situation or a new community?
- Are there any religious considerations?
- Do either of the parents have a history of abuse or criminal activity?
- Does the child have any special needs, either mentally or physically?
- How is the physical and mental health of each parent?
- Does the child have a preference about where they would like to live?
- Is it possible for the child to see both parents, which is generally better?
- Do things like gender or age need to play a role?
As far as preference is concerned, parents are sometimes worried that a child is going to get to decide their own custody situation. This is not how it works. As noted above, the court can certainly consider the child’s preference, but it’s just one of many factors and so the child can’t directly pick the results of the case.
Regardless, as you move forward with this process, you can see how important it is for you to understand your legal options.