Who Gets Custody? Understanding Custody of Minors

For divorcing parents, you can do yourselves and your child a huge favor by making some important decisions without having to involve the courts. Doing so allows the people who know the child the best to make decisions about custody and visitation. If you cannot agree, and some parents find that this issue in particular is a very contentious one, the courts may have to step in and make the custody decision for you two. Read on to find out some of the factors that will be weighed by the family court judge when evaluating child custody.

How old is the child?

Traditionally, judges would often routinely award custody of very young children almost automatically to the mother. Even if the mother was less-than-ideal and the father lobbied hard for custody, the family court system viewed the mother as being the superior parent for babies and toddlers. Today, surprisingly, not a lot has changed.

The courts are still reluctant to award custody to fathers, particularly if the mother appears to be good parent. Fathers do get awarded full custody, of course, but they may have a greater challenge proving that they are the more fit parent, especially if the children are younger. Having an attorney that specializes in family law could help you feel as accurately represented as possible. 

Who gets the house?

The family courts tend to place an emphasis on what is best for the child, and not necessarily what is best for the parents. This can mean ensuring that the child's life is disrupted as little as possible, and most people know that children thrive on routine and do much better when they have a sense of security. When considering who should get custody, if most other issues are balanced, the family courts just naturally lean toward the parent who is awarded the family home. A child left in their home gets to keep their room, the familiar neighborhood and school and the same friends.

Parents who are both leaving the home, or have already done so, still need to consider the appropriateness of their homes when it comes to custody. The judge will be evaluating the safety of the home, so if you are couch-surfing with friends for a while you may not be considered the best custodial parent.

When it's the well-being of your child, you must put aside the obvious emotional chaos of divorce and custody and seek the help of a divorce attorney. Once custody is decided, it might be difficult to have it reversed, so treat this issue with the seriousness it deserves, for the sake of your children.