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How do courts determine who gets child custody in a divorce?

Divorce is rarely a simple, painless process, even when spouses approach the process with care. However, navigating divorce that involves a child can be exceptionally painful and confusing for parents. Many parents have fears that they will miss important parts of their child's life by sharing custody, or that their child's other parent cannot or will not raise their child appropriately.

Family courts look at a number of issues when considering how to award custody and visitation rights to parents, and prefer to approve a custody plan that parents create themselves. If parents cannot create a custody plan that puts the needs of their child first, a court may amend the parents' plan or create a new custody plan that meets the courts' standards. If you face a custody dispute, it is important to understand the factors that courts consider so that you can build a strong custody agreement that keeps your parental rights secure while keeping your children's needs at the heart of the matter.

Factors that courts consider

The goal of each custody arrangement is to create the best life for the child in question. Each childp may have different needs, and individual parents may have advantages or disadvantages that help them meet these needs. As you build your own custody agreement with your child's other parent, be sure to consider:

  • The child's medical needs
  • The child's educational opportunities
  • The emotional bonds between the child and each parent, as well as the surrounding community
  • The financial and practical ability of each parent to house, feed and care for the child
  • Any mental or medical challenges that the child faces
  • Maintaining the child's quality of life
  • The preferences of the child, depending on their age and mental faculties
  • The preferences of the parents
  • Any allegations of abusive or dangerous behavior on the part of a parent

Practically speaking, it is not always possible to create a custody agreement that addresses each parent's desires while creating the best circumstances for the child. At the same time, it is also important to remember that courts award each parent certain rights that the other parent must not violate once a custody order receives approval.

Creating the best life for your child

As you work toward a fair custody agreement, remember to keep the needs of your child at the forefront of the negotiations. Courts recognize that this process is difficult for all parents, and tend to favor parents who focus on meeting their child's needs rather than simply protecting their own preferences. A strong legal strategy helps keep your parenting rights protected so that you can focus on being the best parent that you can be to the child you love.

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