In some cases, parents who are getting divorced are still on fairly good terms and they can determine the child custody solution that they want to use. They may agree on where the child should live, how to split up parenting time, how to divide their legal custody or decision-making power and things of this nature.
But there are also many cases in which parents can’t come to any sort of agreement or may even struggle to have these discussions. That’s when the court has to make a ruling regarding parental rights and custody arrangements. To do so, they will consider the best interests of the child. But what does that actually mean?
Factors that may be considered
To decide what is in the child’s best interests, the court will look at numerous different factors, including the following:
- Parental roles and relationships during the marriage
- The roles of extended family members
- Which parent was the child’s main caregiver
- The child’s age and maturity level
- The parents’ mental health and physical health, as it pertains to their ability to care for the child
- Criminal records or a history of abuse
- The child’s own preferences
- Social and cultural considerations
- The proximity to the child’s school, friend groups and social activities
Essentially, the court is just trying to determine what the best situation would be for the child after the divorce. This may be different than what the parents want. Each parent may want sole custody, for instance, but the court may determine that shared custody would actually be better for the child because it maintains a relationship with both parents.
Splitting up parental rights during a divorce can certainly grow contentious, and the relationship with the child may be on the line. Parents in this situation must understand all of their legal options.