Child Custody

Many parents that are considering a divorce, have child custody issues that have to be addressed.

The Custody and parenting of minor children are important issues to be addressed in divorce, separation and other family matters. The overriding goal of the Courts, lawyers and parents is to develop custody and parental arrangements to achieve what is best for the children. It is generally believed that a child’s interests are best served when parents both have frequent and continuing contact with their children. This, of course, unless a court finds that the parent’s contact or responsibility would be detrimental to the child such as in situations of domestic violence. Child custody can be jointly shared by the parties or “sole” custody awarded to one parent with access by the other parent.  The level of constructive communication between the parents will be an important factor for a court to consider if joint child custody (whether joint decision making or joint physical custody)  is desired.  A court will use the best interests of the child standard when setting forth a parenting time-sharing schedule for a noncustodial, and in fact in all matters involving children. Each case is decided strictly on its own set of facts.

What Do The Courts Consider In Child Custody Cases?

There are several factors that a court will consider in determining child custody and parenting, all in the context of the specific facts and circumstances of the particular case.  Each family is different.   Among other things, the court will consider the age of the child, and whether it is appropriate for a younger child to remain with the primary caregiver while older children’s interests, desires and preferences could be relevant.  In more contentious, highly contested custody disputes, an attorney for the child or guardian ad item may be appointed to represent the interests of the child if the parents do not agree on what those are.  A court will also consider the health and special needs of a child.  It may be that the child’s special needs are met the best in a certain educational or geographical location.  The court will examine each parent’s history of supporting the child to include financial as well as actual physical and emotional care.   Also relevant is the physical and emotional health of the parents themselves.  These are just some of the factors that a court will consider.

Is Divorce Mediation The Answer?

As with other aspects of divorce, mediation is often a preferred alternative when determining child custody and visitation arrangements.  When the parties determine their own custody and parenting scheme, they are often more satisfied with the arrangement then they would be if the court ordered the arrangement, and they will likely be more willing to comply.  Custody and visitation mediation is also often faster and much less expensive than litigation.  An experienced mediator will be able to guide the parents through all of the relevant questions and aspects of determining the custodial and parenting plan that best serves the interests of the children and parents.

What Does A Divorce Mediator Do?

A mediator will examine with the parents a variety of issues and address the needs of your family.  Parents are encouraged to be child focused and to express their concerns and appreciate the  role of each parent in the child’s life.  Parents will examine how decisions will be made and develop a parenting plan with the assistance and guidance of the mediator.   In joint custody parties have the opportunity to discuss and reach an understanding with regard to all major decisions that will be made for health and medical treatment, education, activities, religious instruction, or participation – in all issues that will impact a child’s development.  Joint physical custody situations are often viable in situations where the parents live in close proximity or in the same school district for school age children.  Important aspects of child rearing are discussed such as the possible relocation of a minor child by a custodial parent and the impact that will have on the other parent’s opportunities to be involved in the day-to-day life of their child.  These are just a few of the factors that a mediator can assist you in examining to help determine what is in the best interests of your child or children.

Judith Goldberg, Attorney & Mediator.   Connect With Judith