When parents decide to separate or divorce, one of the most complicated and emotionally charged matters they handle is child custody.
Several important factors come into play when deciding child custody, and parents should understand these factors.
Child’s age and developmental needs
Although most children, 70.1%, live in two-parent households, nearly 30% live with one parent according to the U.S. Census Bureau. To determine custody of the children in single-parent households, the court considers the children’s age and developmental stage. Younger children often need more hands-on care and stability, while older children may have their preferences and routines.
The strength and quality of the parent-child relationship are also factors. The court examines which parent has acted as the primary caregiver and who can best promote the child’s emotional bonds. In some cases, the court considers the children’s preferences, but they weigh these preferences against other factors.
Stability and home environment
Judges analyze living conditions, neighborhoods and the overall environment for stability and comfort. They examine the employment situations and daily routines of the parents to determine if their work schedules interfere with their children’s needs.
Judges also consider both parents’ physical and mental health, parenting skills and their ability to provide for children’s physical, emotional and educational needs. They search for a safe and nurturing environment for the children.
History of domestic violence or abuse
The child’s safety is a top priority, so courts seriously evaluate any history of domestic violence or child abuse.
A court typically chooses who the child will live with based on the best interests of the child or children involved. Parents should gather evidence that shows that they can provide the best lives for their children.