What Are The Goals Of A Child Custody Case?
When it comes to child custody cases, the court isn’t concerned with what each parent wants or needs in terms of spending time with their children. Instead, it’s about what each parent can offer the child and whether spending time with the parent will benefit the child’s well-being.
The court’s goal in any custody case is to determine which parent can provide the child with stability, love, and affection. Judges also want to ensure that parents can provide their children with basic necessities such as food, shelter, and clothing.
It’s usually in the child’s best interests to maintain a close relationship with both parents, but if one or both parents aren’t fit to care for the child, the court will consider what’s best for the child before establishing a custody plan for the family.
Best Interest Considerations in Child Custody
Each state has its own set of factors, which are commonly referred to as “best interest factors,” that judges must consider when deciding custody. Although states may differ slightly, the following are the most common factors:
- each parent’s and child’s love, affection, and emotional ties
- each parent’s ability to provide a home, food, clothing, and other necessities to the child
- the child’s preference (this factor is limited in some states and is heavily influenced by the child’s age, mental capacity, and willingness to express an opinion)
- each parent’s ability to provide loving support, parental guidance, and discipline to their child
- Stability and consistency (courts prefer to keep the child’s routine consistent, so if the child has routinely lived with one parent and has established a schedule, school, and childcare routines, the court is less likely to disrupt the child’s life with a change in custody)
- each parent’s moral fitness, drug and alcohol history, and mental and physical health whether either parent has a history of child or domestic abuse
- each parent’s willingness to foster a healthy and ongoing relationship between the child and the child’s other parent
- the age of the child and any special needs (younger children may require nursing and special needs) Children require specialized care that not all parents can provide.
- the child’s relationship with each parent in the past For example, has the child’s mother been a stay-at-home parent and developed a bond with the child to the point where awarding substantial or sole custody to the child’s other parent would be detrimental?
- the child’s home, school, and community records, as well as the child’s interactions with other family members in the home, such as step parents and siblings.
It is critical to recognize that no single factor is more important than the others. Instead, the court will consider all of the factors, facts, and family history to determine whether one or both parents are best suited to provide day-to-day care for the child. In addition, each court has the authority to consider any other factors that the judge believes will affect the child’s best interests.
Things to Avoid During Your Child Custody Case
AVOID VERBAL ALTERCATIONS WITH EX-SPOUSE AND/OR CHILDREN
While you may be tempted to engage in a verbal sparring match with your ex or even yell at him or her, try to keep your cool – especially in front of your children. Those who engage in shouting matches will not be looked upon favorably by the judge.
AVOID PHYSICAL CONFRONTATION WITH EX-SPOUSE AND/OR CHILDREN
If verbal squabbles are bad, imagine what the judge will think if you get into physical squabbles with your ex or your children. Physical altercations can result not only in the loss of custody and placement of your children, but also in charges of physical abuse or child abuse, which will almost certainly result in an Injunction (“Restraining Order”). When there is a Restraining Order in place, it is nearly impossible to co-parent and share custody and placement of your children.
AVOID EXPOSING YOUR CHILDREN TO NEW PARTNERS
You may be tempted to start dating again after filing for divorce. In fact, your marriage may have ended because you or your spouse were already involved with another person. However, you should keep your children away from anyone you’re dating while your divorce is pending, and even after your divorce is final. It can cause confusion and unnecessary drama for your children, especially if they (or your ex) dislike your partner.
AVOID CRITICIZING THE OTHER PARENT TO LEGAL PARTIES, FAMILY, OR FRIENDS
Remember that anything you say to your attorney, your spouse’s attorney, your family, or even your friends can be used against you in court. Even if the other person did not intend to repeat what you said, something may have slipped out. It is also possible that they will be called upon to give a deposition or testify and will be sworn to tell the truth under oath. It is far better to keep such thoughts to yourself.
AVOID NEGLECTING CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS AND/OR AGREED UPON PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES
Even if it is not court-ordered, if you and your ex agreed on child or spousal support payments while your divorce is pending, you must pay them. You must not miss any of the payments if they are court-ordered. This demonstrates disrespect for the court’s temporary judgment and suggests that you may not have your children’s best interests at heart. The same is true if you fail to fulfill any obligations you agreed to or were ordered to fulfill. This includes picking up your children for visits and returning them at the agreed-upon times and locations.
AVOID DAMAGING PROPERTY THAT BELONGS TO YOUR EX-SPOUSE
You want to avoid losing your temper and damaging your ex’s property, just as you would when arguing or fighting. This includes their car, home, and anything else they own. Don’t damage any joint property, even if you’ve paid for it in full. Whatever you bought during your marriage is considered marital property; do not damage, destroy, or sell it until the divorce is finalized.
AVOID DENYING YOUR CHILDREN CONTACT WITH THEIR OTHER PARENT DURING YOUR SCHEDULED TIME WITH THEM
You cannot legally deny your ex reasonable contact with your children if they have visitation rights and are following any visitation regulations imposed by the court. If you try to do this, your spouse may file a contempt petition with the court, and the court may decide to reconsider its allocation of custody and placement.
AVOID REMOVING CHILDREN FROM SCHEDULED ACTIVITIES
Divorce is difficult for your children. They’re used to a routine, and everything is suddenly turned upside down. Make every effort to keep their routine as normal as possible. Make every effort to keep them involved in all of their school activities, extracurricular sports, and other activities that they enjoy. Of course, this is not always possible, but it is critical to do your best.
AVOID TRAVELING WITH CHILDREN WITHOUT NOTIFYING YOUR EX-SPOUSE
If you plan to take your children out of state or even within the same state for several nights, always notify your ex. While your spouse may not be able to prevent the travel, common courtesy dictates that a parent has the right to know where his or her children are, especially when travel is involved.
Are You Looking for a Family Law Attorney You Can Trust?
The decision of child custody is one that needs to be made with careful consideration. One might think it’s a simple matter, but there are many responsibilities and decisions involved in the process. The courts will want to know who has cared for your children most often; how much time you spend together as parents each week; if either parent abuses drugs or alcohol excessively (or have done so in the past); where would your kids live best – near their other family members? The attorneys at GillespieShields are well-versed in a variety of different legal fields, ranging from family law to civil suits, employment disputes and probate cases. Although we specialize in several areas of practice, our greatest passion is family law. Whether you’re filing for dissolution or divorce, determining custody of your children, or thinking about adopting children, our experienced attorneys are here to help you every step of the way. During our private, one-on-one consultation, we’ll take the necessary time to answer all of your questions surrounding Arizona’s family laws, your family’s unique situation, and the possible court outcomes. Contact us today for your consultation!
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