While child custody laws may vary from state to state, they all have the child’s best interest in mind as the central concern. That still leaves a little up for interpretation by the judge, but here are some of the factors you can expect judges to take into consideration:
The most obvious and cut-and-dry factor is that if there is conclusive evidence of a child being abused or neglected by either parent. This can lead to limited visitation rights or an outright ban.
It used to be the standard belief that younger children should live with their mothers. While this isn’t the go-to choice by default like it used to be, many judges still think it’s best for the child.
There is a tendency to favor the mother at younger ages, but when children get to about 12 years old, this is where the judge may feel they are able to articulate sound reasoning for favoring one parent over the other. While some states require a child’s input, others prefer not to bring them into the mix at all.
Another consideration is how each parent relates with the child. How involved was each parent in their child’s upbringing? Were they only less involved because of circumstances out of their control, such as difficult work hours? A judge will consider all sides and factors when making their decision.
Whether the child will be living in full custody with one parent or they share custody, the living conditions will come into play. The judge will likely want to keep as much stability in the child’s life as possible. This may include favoring the parent who will remain in the family home, since it’s the environment the child is most familiar with and will help minimize change for them. Sometimes the custodial parent will be awarded the family home for this very reason.
Other living arrangement factors will be considered as well, such as how far a parent is from the child’s pre-divorce residence, school and extracurricular activities. If a parent is sharing a place with a non-family member, that can also have an impact.
There are many other factors a judge will consider in a child custody case. They will almost always be directly or indirectly related to having the child’s best interest in mind. As a parent who wants to win custody, you must show that you will provide stability and continuity in their lives and that any ill will that may exist with your spouse will not create unnecessary stress for the child.