It is important that a child custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child. The family law court uses a variety of factors to determine what is in the best interests of the child as a child custody and parenting plan is developed.
Child custody factors used to determine what is best for the child
- Stability and the home environment of the child: if one parent is initially given custody, preference for child custody may go to that parent to preserve stability for the child. The home environment will be considered to help ensure the health, safety and well-being of the child.
- Primary caretaker: child custody preference may be given to the parent who was the primary caretaker of the child prior to the divorce or separation.
- Childcare arrangements: if both parents are working, child custody preference may be given to the parent who can provide better childcare.
- Educational opportunities: if one parent is able to offer greater educational opportunities for the child, this may be taken into account when evaluating child custody.
- Mental health of the parents: the mental health of the parents will be evaluated and untreated mental illnesses, personality disorders, emotional instability or poor parenting may impact child custody determinations.
- Physical health of the parents: severe physical illness or disability that impacts the parent’s ability to care for the child can impact child custody.
- The finances of the parents: the family law court will evaluate if each parent can provide financially for the child.
- Drug or alcohol use: evidence of drug and alcohol abuse may impact an award of child custody.
- Any history of abuse: evidence that a parent has committed domestic abuse can impact child custody.
- Abuse, neglect, abandonment and interference with visitation rights: a parent who has abused, neglected or abandoned the child may be less likely to receive custody. Also, a parent who has interfered with the visitation rights of the other parent may be less likely to receive custody.
- The preference of the child: depending on the age of the child, the child’s preference for which parent to live with may be taken into account when determining custody.
- Where the child’s siblings live: the family law court gives preference to keeping the child with its siblings.
The family law court has a lot to consider when determining child custody and will also take into account its own evaluation of the parents. Reaching a child custody arrangement that is best for the child is a paramount concern for the family law court which is why parents should be familiar with the factors used to determine custody.