One of the most important issues decided in a divorce case is child custody. Determining who gets the child can be an emotional, contentious, and complicated decision. When it comes to custody issues, the best interest and well-being of the child is the paramount criteria. At first, child custody is agreed upon by the parents themselves either voluntarily or with the presence of a mediator.
When all efforts to agree on a decision fail, this is where the court comes in to intervene. Again the best interest of the child will be the deciding factor. The problem with such criteria is that it is hard to determine. In most instances, the main factor that will affect the decision is who has served as the child’s “primary caretaker.” If the child is already old enough to make a decision, the court will consider their preference into account when making a custody decision.
The standard for “best interest” varies from one state to another and so the common criteria for child custody decisions may be any of the following:
- Preference of the child if they are already old enough to state their preference
- Mental and physical condition of the parents
- Religion and other cultural considerations
- Need for continuation of stable home environment
- Adjustment to school and community
- Age and sex of the child
- Evidence of parental drug, alcohol, or sex abuse
In cases when other people other than the parents would like to obtain custody of the child, most states follow a certain procedure that must be followed by people who wish for non-parental custody. The process starts with the filing of a “non-parental custody petition” with the court. Afterwards, the court will determine the relationship of the applicant to the child. In addition, the court will also determine the status of the parents, and the reason the person is seeking custody.