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How the court makes child custody decisions

If you and your spouse are going through a divorce, and you have children, you may be wondering how the court makes custody decisions. Although the court will generally honor an agreement that the parents decide on, it will make the ultimate decision if parents cannot reach an agreement.

Ultimately, a judge considers what is in the child’s best interest. If you want to work with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse, these considerations should also be major factors in your decision.

General custody information

According to FindLaw, the courts generally award joint custody, unless there are factors that show this may not be beneficial for the child. However, this does not necessarily mean that the child will spend equal time with each parent. The court does recognize the rights of grandparents to request and have visitation rights with the child.

Best interest considerations

If the child is old and mature enough, a judge does keep the child’s wishes in mind. However, the major factors involved relate to the child’s wellbeing and safety. The Child Welfare Information Gateway discusses many of the factors considered when determining the best interests of the child. Some of the guiding principles include:

  • Avoiding removing child from the current home
  • Family integrity
  • Timely permanency decisions
  • Proper guidance, treatment and care of the child

The court may consider the current living situation as well as the needs of the child. The judge will also consider the physical and mental abilities of each parent to provide and care for the child. Other considerations may include the presence of violence, abuse or addiction in the household.

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