Parents going through divorce are often concerned about who will end up with custody of their children and how that decision will be made. Parents can agree on a plan or the court can establish a plan, but it is important to understand that the best interests of the child should be at the heart of any child custody decision.
When awarding child custody, courts do not favor mothers over fathers or fathers over mothers. Instead, the best interests of the child is the court’s primary concern. Children often fare better when they can maintain regular contact with both parents, so courts frequently encourage parents to share child rearing responsibilities. However, courts can award any custody arrangement that benefits the child.
There are two ways to determine custody
Often, parents have the most control over the details of a child custody arrangement when they work together to create a mutually agreeable plan. When both parents agree on a child custody arrangement, the court will generally approve that arrangement. After all, parents usually know their child's best interests better than anyone else. However, the court will not approve any child custody arrangement that it determines is not beneficial for the child.
In instances when parents cannot agree on an arrangement, each parent can submit a custody plan. The court will consider both plans when determining what arrangement is in best for the child.
How courts determine a child’s best interests
Some questions the court may consider when determining the best interests of a child include:
- The child’s safety
- The ability of the parents to communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the child
- A history of either parent not allowing the other parent time with the child
- The child’s relationship with immediate family members
- Any history of domestic violence
- The child’s needs
- The stability of each home environment
- The quality and continuity of the child's education
- How close the parents' homes are
- The child’s preference
Parents can create a custody plan or a court can create one. However, the best interests of the child should govern the details of any custody arrangement.