I've been told that the courts will consider "the best interests of the child" when determining custody. What does that mean, exactly? What are the specific factors that a judge will consider before making a custody determination?
The specific criteria used to determine custody varies from state to state. To find out more about the child custody laws in your area, read Child Custody Laws in the United States.
In general, a judge will consider the following factors:
- The age of the children.
- The wishes of each parent.
- The quality of the relationship between the children and each parent.
- The health - both mental and physical - of each parent and the children.
- The willingness of each parent to support and facilitate the children's ongoing relationship with the other parent.
- Whether either parent has been providing the majority of the children's care up to this point.
- The ability of each parent to provide a stable, loving environment.
- The living accommodations of each parent's home.
- Each parent's ability to provide for the children's physical needs, emotional wellness, and medical care.
- The level of adjustment and attachment between the children and their home, school environment, and community/neighborhood.
- How the children will be affected by either continuing the current custody arrangement or disrupting the arrangement.
- The children's wishes (if they are able to express their own desires).
- Confirmed evidence of domestic violence, abuse, or neglect by either parent.
- Whether false allegations of abuse or neglect have been brought by either parent against the other.