What Factors Play a Role in Child Custody?
Long ago when parents got divorced, the mother was automatically given custody of the children unless there was a serious problem. This is no longer the case. When parents go through a divorce today, the courts determine child custody by deciding what is in the best interests of the child. While they may have an impact, custody is no longer decided solely by gender, income and marital status. Most commonly, all court systems including Washington, DC look at each parent’s ability to nurture and raise the children. Parents who live in the area, don’t travel frequently, show good judgment and have a suitable place to live are more likely to have sole or physical custody. Some jurisdictions require a parenting plan submission, while others don’t. Although it’s not required, t is important to have an attorney familiar with that jurisdiction’s laws and guidelines regarding child custody. For example, when the parent bringing forth the case lives in Washington, DC, a DC child custody attorney should handle the case. In a Maryland case, a Maryland child custody lawyer is best equipped to represent the parent.
The child’s age also plays an important role in who may have custody. Children who are at least 12 years old can express their opinion about which parent they would like to live with. The court also takes into account schooling and the wishes of the parents.
The physical and mental health of both parents and the children are another factor. Health insurance is often factored in to the equation, but the parent with primary custody does not necessarily have to be the one to pay for and handle health insurance. The parents’ abilities to travel and care for the children are considered, as are the physical, mental and emotional needs of the children.
The relationships between the children and each parent, siblings and extended family members are also a key point in helping the court determine the best child custody situation. The ability of the parents to get along when necessary, make decisions in the best interests of the children and follow agreements also plays a major role in how the final custody plan is arranged.
Additional factors include the children’s social and extracurricular activities, schooling, religious upbringing and the parents’ geographical location and demands of employment.
In DC, parents can devise their own parenting and child custody plans or consult a DC child custody lawyer to prepare one. Another option is for the parties’ lawyers to negotiate the physical and legal custody and visitation, then submit a plan to the court.