In virtually all divorces involving children, child custody is the number one factor for the divorcing couple. Even dividing assets and money usually take a back seat to who will receive physical custody of their child and how much.
There are a few things you can do to give yourself a fighting chance if you suspect that you will be facing a custody battle in court. First, seek out a skilled divorce attorney. Their expertise in family law will make them a critical ally during your divorce proceedings.
The next best step you can take is to familiarize yourself with what a judge will consider when deciding how to award custody. These are among the largest factors that will come into play:
- Who the child wishes to live with, assuming they are mature enough to make the claim
- The parent's wishes regarding custody and parenting plan
- How willing each parent is to encourage the child to have a relationship with the other parent
- The state of the child's relationship with either parent, their siblings and other relatives
- The physical and mental health of each parent
- If and how much the child will need to adjust to a new home, school and community
- How willing and able a parent is to provide for the child
- Any histories of abuse, domestic violence, neglect or child abuse
These guidelines are designed to help steer a judge toward assigning custody based on the child's bests interests. How one category applies to a parent does not necessarily guarantee they will or will not receive custody. For example, a parent with a history of domestic abuse charges may still receive custody if the charges are very old and the child wishes to live with them.
Anything the court determines to be relevant can also be used in the determination; meaning working closely with your attorney to devise the best strategy for your situation is of paramount importance. Working through a divorce is a real challenge but advancing one day at a time with your child's best interests in mind is the best thing you can do for them and yourself.