Child custody is a primary concern for parents during divorce and they may wonder how child custody is determined. Whether divorcing couples are negotiating child custody or the family law court is making child custody decisions, the best interests of the child is always the focus of child custody determinations.
What is in the best interests of the child is the guiding principle for child custody decisions and focuses on the child's happiness, safety, security, mental health and emotional development. The court considers a variety of factors to determine what is in the best interests of the child. Factors that may be evaluated can include the mental and physical health of the parents; any special needs of the child and the ability of the parents to meet those needs; religious and cultural considerations; adjustment to school and community; the age and sex of the child; and the wishes of the child depending on age.
In addition, the court will consider the need for a continued stable home environment; other children relevant to the child's custody agreement; the opportunity for interaction with extended family members; the interaction and interrelationship between household members; and any domestic abuse or parental abuse including drug, alcohol and other abuse such as child abuse.
Understandably, child custody can be an emotional concern during the divorce process which is why it can help to understand how child custody decisions are made. Parents should never lose sight of what is in the best interests of the child when negotiating child custody and visitation.