It is often said that the best case scenario for any child is when the two parents can work past their differences and stay together, or at least work together, for the sake of the child’s welfare. But in truly toxic relationships, it is sometimes much better for the child to see their parents do what is healthiest for themselves. Divorce is never the outcome that anyone hopes for, but when that day comes it is better to model proper self-care and to show your children that there is an option that leads to happiness and security.
Unfortunately, most divorces that involve children quickly turn into a custody battle. Whereas once the child had both parents to turn to, now the child is being legally forced to put one in front of the other. The worst thing a parent can do is make a child play favorites. Custody agreements are necessary for the welfare of the child, but they are best handled when all parties are respectful and helpful toward each other and the legal process.
While custody laws can vary state to state and every family presents different concerns that need to be taken under consideration, the following five factors are the most commonly considered when determining the best interests of the child:
- Age of the child. A child who is still breastfeeding is more likely to stay with the mother, though this isn’t the case every time. It is much more common to see joint custody granted with older children.
- Living situation of the parent. The parent’s living situation needs to reflect an earnest ability and interest in caretaking for the child. This means the parent must have a stable housing situation. If one parent is able to maintain the family home, then it is likely that parent will be granted primary custody as it reduces the amount of change for the child.
- Relationship between child and parent. The court will take into consideration the evident relationship between the child and parent, and will try to act in the best interest of the child when there is a clear difference in the quality of relationship between child and each parent.
- Mental and physical health of the parent. A parent with a history of alcoholism, drug abuse, severe mental disorder, or physical disability that would prevent them from being able to care for the child appropriately, is less likely to gain custody.
- Financial independence and work obligations. A parent who has a high-paying job that requires regular travel poses just as high of a risk as a parent who has inconsistent work. Both parents are expected to provide for the child’s needs, and sometimes the parent who has the ability to stay at home will get custody preference.
While every custody case is different, it is the job of the court to determine the best interest for the child. Whereas it is always easier when the parents can work together and come up with a custody plan that all parties are happy with, it is important to have the advice of an experienced child custody attorney during this process. If you are facing a divorce or custody case, make sure your rights are fully represented. Contact the law offices of Orsinger, Nelson, Downing and Anderson, LLP for a confidential consultation.