How do judges decide what’s in a child’s ‘best interests?’

| Jan 15, 2019 | Child Custody

If you and your spouse can’t agree on a child custody arrangement during your divorce, a family court judge will need to decide the matter. The primary consideration for judges is what’s in the child’s best interests.

When determining whether one parent should have sole physical custody of a child or parents should share custody, judges will look at the following for each parent:

  • Do the parent and child have a strong relationship?
  • Is the parent physically and mentally healthy?
  • Can the parent provide a loving, stable environment for the child?
  • Can the parent provide for the child’s physical and emotional needs?
  • Will the parent be supportive of their child’s relationship with their co-parent?
  • If the child is old enough and mature enough to have a say, with which parent do they prefer to live?

Typically, if one parent has had the bulk of the responsibility for a child’s care, a judge will determine that this parent should have primary or sole physical custody. This will provide more continuity and stability for the child. However, that doesn’t mean the other parent should be denied some custody or visitation rights.

There would be exceptions to this if a parent has been found guilty of abuse or otherwise determined to be a danger to the child. Making false accusations against the other parent can also cost someone custody rights.

If evidence is presented that a parent has issues with alcohol, that can impact a judge’s decision. However, alcohol abuse doesn’t automatically prevent you from having access to your child. The judge and perhaps social services and psychiatric professionals will look at whether a parent’s use of alcohol places the child in danger or could cause them to be neglected.

If you’re facing a battle for custody or visitation rights because of your alcohol use, whether it’s ongoing or in the past, it’s essential to work with your attorney to determine what steps you can take to maintain a relationship with your child. A couple of months ago, we discussed the use of alcohol monitoring systems by some parents to prove that they aren’t drinking while they’re around their children, or in some cases that they’re no longer drinking at all. Your attorney can help you explore this and other options.

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