The most important principal in custodial disputes is that the resolution should be in the best interests of the child. It is the State’s policy that, “it is in the public interest to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing,” but when this is not possible, the court must use the following criteria to determine appropriate custodial arrangements:
- How well do the parents “agree, communicate and cooperate,” with each other regarding the child? If the parents cannot agree, the court may have to intervene.
- How willing are the parents to accept a custodial arrangement, and is there any record of unwillingness by one parent to allow the other parenting time (except in cases where abuse is substantiated)?
- What is the child’s relationship to each parent and any siblings?
- Is there any history of domestic violence on the part of either parent?
- How safe is the child with either parent? And how safe are the parents around each other?
- If the child is old enough to make an intelligent decision about the matter, what is the child’s preference?
- What are the needs of the child and how well is each parent equipped to meet those needs?
- How stable is the home environment provided by either parent?
- How will custody arrangement affect the “quality and continuity” of the child’s education?
- How fit are the parents to act as custodians?
- How close do the parents live to each other?
- How much quality time did the child spend with either parent prior to their separation?
- How is each parent employed, and how do their employment responsibilities affect their ability to parent?
- How old are the children, and how many are there?
The court will order any parenting arrangement that both parents agree to, provided it is not contrary to the child’s best interests. If the parents cannot agree, they may each be asked to submit a custody plan, which the court will use to determine custody. All the factors going into this decision will be recorded by the court.
While the basic premises of the law are clear cut, there are a number of varying factors that may impinge upon these determinations. If you are concerned about custodianship for your child or children, it is best to consult an attorney before proceeding with your case. You can call our office at 856-227-7888, or contact us at [email protected] for a free consultation. We will assess your individual situation, and help you secure the custodial arrangement that is best for you and your children.
The above is not specific legal advice nor does it create a lawyer-client relationship. Do not rely upon it without consulting an attorney to see how the information presented fits your unique circumstances.