Child Custody Tips
Divorce is as much a part of our society as marriage. At times, the process can be stressful, and that increases exponentially when children are involved. No matter how much the parents might disagree, they nonetheless still love their children, and should do what they can to mitigate the impact of the divorce on their children’s lives.
There are some important steps a parent needs to do to protect their interests in regards to child custody. The ultimate question the judge will answer is what is in the best interests of the children.Demonstrate Physical and Mental Health
Before the court can decide which parent to award custody, the court needs to see that the parent has the capability to take care of themselves before taking care of their children. If one of the parents has a serious mental health issue or physical disability that might preclude them from taking proper care of their children, this is going to be the most important factor considered. While this might seem obvious, this step is often overlooked. The judge needs to know that the mental capacity to care for children is there before awarding custody.The Child's Relationship with Each Parent
After both parents have been ruled mentally and physically capable of raising a child, the court is going to consider how close the child is with each of their parents. This can sometimes be a tough decision but there are a few important factors the court will consider.
Does one parent travel too much for work? If one of the parents travels a significant amount for their job, they are not likely to be present for their child. Moreover, how will they be able to take the child to and from school and assist with their homework or after school activities if they are traveling for work. If this is the case, it may be in the child’s best interest to stay with the non-traveling parent while the other parent is traveling.
Who helps the child with their homework? Children's academics should be held above all else. Which parent is there for their children when they need help? Often times, the court will find that the child should be with the parent who demonstrates they ensure the child completes his or her homework or school projects, turns the homework and projects in to their teachers and is prepared for exams.
Who knows the child's friends? Social development is key and children make friends and arrange playdates with their friends. One of the parents likely supervises these playdates and gets involved in the child's social life.
Who drives the child to their extracurricular activities? Parents have an important role in their child's extracurricular activities. They should be present to promote the development of a well-rounded child.Relationship Between the Parties
A court will not look favorably on a parent who does not facilitate or encourage a relationship between the children and the other parent. A parent finding themselves in a dispute involving time-sharing should make a real effort to facilitate time-sharing and daily phone calls with the other parent, unless there is a good reason to prevent such time-sharing. A good reason would involve drug or alcohol abuse or mental health issues.Geographic Location is Important
The geographic location of each parent is going to be important because there are only so many hours in the day. Children should not spend multiple hours per day in the car if it can be avoided. If one of the parents lives close to the child's school, sports, music lessons, and friends, this is going to play an important role in the judge's decision. Parents who are closer to these locations are more likely to have more time-sharing because this is in the best interest of the child. Following a dissolution of marriage, it is beneficial to the children if the parents try to reside in homes that are relatively close to one another to avoid the children having to travel long distances after school or between homes for time-sharing.
Article updated October 23, 2020.