How will a judge make a decision about custody?
A judge will make a decision about custody based on what s/he thinks is in your child's best interest. The judge will look at any factor that s/he thinks is important to make this decision. Some factors a judge may consider are:
- The wishes of each parent and sometimes the child (depending on the child's age);
- The quality of the relationship between the child and the parents;
- The relationship with grandparents, siblings and or other significant people in the child's life;
- The child's relationship to his or her school, religious institution and community;
- The mental and physical health of all parties;
- Any past, present or possible future spousal or child abuse by either parent;
- Any past or present drug or substance abuse by either parent;
- Any past or present criminal actions by either parent other than minor infractions or less serious crimes that were committed a long time ago with no recent criminal actions;
- Which parent has been involved in the past in getting the child to doctor and dentist appointments;
- Which parent has been involved in the child's schooling, attending parent teacher conferences and going to school functions;
- Which parent is most likely to provide a safe home environment for the child and not engage in activities in the home that can cause health problems for the child. Some judges like to find out who smokes in the home - especially if the child has asthma or allergies. Another safety issue is using a car seat for younger children;
- The willingness of a potential custodial parent to foster a relationship and visitation with the other parent;
- The stability in the child's home life that a parent is able to provide for the child;
- A parent's ability to provide for the material needs of the child;
- The demonstrated ability of each parent to make good decisions regarding the child's welfare;
- Whether there are siblings or half-siblings with established close relationships (courts tend to keep siblings together); and
- A parent's ability to spend time with the child.
This list was taken from the LawHelp.org website.
Note: If your case is going to trial, you can ask the judge to make specific “findings of fact” regarding the reasons for the custody decision. In other words, the judge will spell out the reasons why s/he decided the way s/he did. You must request this of the judge, though, before the trial begins.