When spouses with children divorce, custody is an unavoidable topic.
Recently, the laws governing child custody in divorce changed to require consideration of the child’s preference when determining custody and visitation, but the court must still consider and avoid several other factors.
What the court does consider
Children aged 13 years and older can address the court in a custody hearing as long as it remains in the child’s best interests. Other factors that the court considers include:
- The child’s community ties, including school and connections to other relatives in the area
- The child’s health
- The child’s emotional connection to each parent
The court also evaluates the parents to look for any history of violence or substance abuse issues and whether or not they can care for the child.
What the court does not consider
There are also factors that the court cannot legally consider in a child custody case. These include:
- Personal details about a parent’s sexual orientation or sexual relations
- The sex or race of either parent
- Whether or not the parent has a physical disability
- A parent’s religious practices or lack thereof
- The economic advantage of one parent over the other
Sometimes there are exceptions to certain factors, such as religion or sexual relations, if it is potentially a detriment to the child’s best interests.
As children age and circumstances change, the child custody agreement may change as well. Each parent has the option to request a modification. Some parents need assistance to work out an agreement, and others can settle the terms on their own.