In some amicable divorce cases, parents work together to come up with a parenting schedule or a child custody schedule. They decide how they’re going to make crucial decisions – known as legal custody – and where the child is going to live. They may set up a schedule to share parenting time with the child.
But in other cases, parents cannot do this on their own. The court has to step in and issue an order, which the parents will then follow. The goal is to do this with the “child’s best interests” in mind, but how does the court determine what would actually be in that child’s best interests?
Factors that the court considers
The court does this by looking at numerous different factors, attempting to put the child first and focusing on stability. Some crucial factors include:
- The child’s age and gender
- The previous parental relationships
- The roles of extended family members
- If either parent was a primary caregiver or a primary breadwinner
- Both of the parents’ mental and physical health
- The child’s preferences and any requests they have
- Any special needs that the child has
- Where the child goes to school and where they live – considering their class at school, their friends and neighbors, their extracurricular activities and more
These factors apply differently from one case to the next. For instance, a child’s preferences may only be considered if they are old enough and have the mental capacity to understand the divorce process and voice their opinions. It’s much different if a toddler says they would prefer to live with one parent versus a 17-year-old who wants to choose which parent to live with until they graduate from high school.
As such, every divorce case is unique. Parents who are going through this process need to be well aware of their legal rights and the options they have.