What Factors Do Courts Consider When Determining Child Custody?

mom with her daughter at table

One of the most contentious aspects of any Michigan divorce is child custody. Even if, deep down, both parents realize that shared custody is what is best for the child, neither party is likely to want to relinquish time with him or her. Both parties may act on their emotions rather than logic, which is why a family judge is almost always called upon to make custody determinations. What factors, though, does the judge consider when deciding between sole and shared custody, and with whom the child should live the majority of the time? Ultimately, it comes down to the child’s best interests.

The Best Interests of the Child Standard

Most parents have nothing but the best intentions for their offspring, thereby making it difficult for many to understand the best interests standard. However, despite each parent’s competing wishes and good intentions, the law allows family judges to use their discretion in deciding what living arrangement might be in a child’s best interests. Experienced child custody lawyers for women understand the factors judges consider to aid in the decision-making process, thereby making a lawyer an integral tool in your case.

Factors a Judge Will Consider in a Custody Hearing

At face value, the best interest standard seems conjectural. After all, how can a judge say what is and is not best for a child whom he or she knows little to nothing about? Rest assured the court has processes in place designed to guide the judge throughout the decision-making process. Those processes entail looking to several key factors.

The Health and Age of Each Paren

Though the courts try not to make determinations based on these factors alone, the physical and mental health and age of each parent tells the judge a lot about the type of future a child can expect with each parent. If a parent is physically or mentally unwell, the judge may award that parent less custody.

The Child’s Age

Again, a child’s age does not play a huge role in the custody determinations, but it does factor in. For instance, if a child is just a baby, the courts may award the mother the majority of custody for the time being and then reevaluate the arrangement as the child grows older.

Prior Roles

The judge will consider each parent’s role in a child’s life. Who provided the majority of care? Who was the most consistent presence for the child? If one parent travels a lot for work or works odd hours, it may impact the judge’s decision.

Living Accommodations and Environment

One thing the courts like to see is that a parent can provide a clean, safe and comfortable living environment for the child. For instance, the judge may want to know that each child will have his or her own room, or that a parent has a steady job and is able to provide the child with the most basic necessities.

In addition to ensuring the child’s physical wellbeing, the judge will want to know that each parent is able to provide an emotionally stable and loving home for the child. To do this, he or she may request the opinions of character witnesses.

The judge will also consider the level of attachment and adjustment between the child and his or her current school, home and community. For instance, if a child was born and raised in a single neighborhood and one parent plans to move out of that neighborhood, the courts may not feel comfortable uprooting the child.

Allegations of Domestic Violence

A child’s physical and mental wellbeing is the court’s utmost concern. For this reason, if the judge suspects or hears whispers of domestic abuse or neglect, he or she may order a prompt investigation and make a determination based on the findings.

Child custody attorneys thoroughly understand the best interests standards. To learn more, call The Law Firm of Victoria at (248) 780-1775 or contact our office online.

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