If you are a parent seeking a divorce, or if you have children outside of a marriage and will not be staying with your partner, you are likely wondering how you and your co-parent will be sharing the responsibility of raising the children. Perhaps you are your partner are thinking about making your own arrangement for child custody. In other cases, you may not have this luxury, and thus will be in need of a greater level of outside help.
If you and your partner can't agree or would prefer an outside opinion, there are resources readily available to you. Ultimately, a court will look at your situation and either bless the arrangements that you and your partner have agreed to or it will attempt to fully determine the arrangements that are in the children's best interests.
How do courts determine best interests?
Courts determine the custody arrangement that is in a child's best interests by looking at several factors. Some of those factors can include:
- A parent's ability to provide for the child
- A parent's access to free time to care for the child
- A parent's medical and mental health history
- Any challenges with substance abuse
- If the child is old enough, the child's preferences
- The wishes of both parents
- A parent's likelihood of preserving the relationship with the other parent
- The child's overall quality of life
- Whether the parent has brought false charges or acted in defiance of a court order
What if I left the home?
If you were the parent who left the home, you may have taken the children with you. If you did, you should immediately reach out to the court to share your reason for doing so, such as that you are trying to protect the children so as not to be perceived as trying to take the children away unlawfully.
If you leave the home without taking the children, you may be less likely to receive full custody because a judge may not want to disrupt the stability of the children's home life; however, this is not always the case.
As a father, do I have an equal chance for custody?
If you are a dad, you may have concerns about losing custody of your children. This may have been the case in the past, but attitudes have changed along with parental roles. Now, most people understand that both parents have an important role in childcare and that both parents are potentially capable of fully handling these responsibilities.
What if I have more questions?
Child custody can be a tricky issue. You will want to weigh your needs and preferences with those of your child and the needs and preferences of the other parent, and you may have custody-related questions about the manner in which to proceed. Many people choose to reach out for more help, and by retaining experienced legal counsel, you may be able to significantly increase your odds of reaching the most desirable outcome for you and your family.