When parents divorce, child custody is usually a major contested issue. Each parent may want the child, but the question of where the child lives will turn on the issue of what is in the best interests of the child, not the parents.
Can my spouse and I agree on child custody and visitation arrangements?
You and your spouse can agree on child custody and visitation arrangements, but the court always has the authority to disregard it and make its own child custody or visitation order – in the best interests of the child.
If we don’t, what will happen?
If you and your spouse don’t agree on child custody, often the judge will order the parents to try to resolve their child custody differences through a court operated mediation program. In any case, the judge will make her own order based upon the best interests of the child. In many cases, the court will take evidence from the parents, family members, professionals, such as psychologists or social workers and will determine what is in the best interest of the child.
The court will consider multiple factors in making its determination: the child’s age and maturity level; the parents mental well-being and physical health; whether there is any history of child abuse or neglect; whether the parents uses illegal drugs; the emotional connection between each parent and child; the financial circumstances of each parent and their respective ability and willingness to adequaltley provide for the child, such as providing for the child’s education, quality of housing and medical care. A major factor the court will consider is which custodial arrangement will minimize the disruption to the child’s life, and so factors in the potential impact on the child of changing the status quo will be weighed heavily by the court.