When child custody is in dispute and left to the judge to decide, judges usually use a standard referred to as "best interest of the child". This judgment may at first appear to be vague and ill-defined, but within the scope of this issue there are certain standards that judges use to help them to make that determination. If you are involved in a child custody dispute, read on for the five factors that are used to determine what the best interest of the child may be.
1. The age of the child: In the past, judges would usually place babies and younger children with the mother automatically, unless there were obvious issues with the mother's fitness. The so-called "tender age" rule no longer exists, but many judges do persist in giving custody to mothers, even when there may be no logical reason to do so. Nursing mothers are almost always given custody for practical reasons.
2. The housing situation: The parent with the family home is often given preference when custody is decided. Judges reason, rightly so, that children will suffer less disruption to their routines if they are left in familiar surroundings. The parent without the family home who is seeking custody should take care when making their living arrangements. While it may be cheap and convenient to crash at a friend's apartment, don't expect the judge to be impressed with your bachelor pad living situation when it comes time to decide child custody.
3. Your attitude about your spouse: Judges will look carefully at how the parents relate to one another and prefer to see a parent who is respectful towards the child's other parent. A parent who bad-mouths, manipulates or causes drama will likely score very low on the judge's scale for parental attitude, and custody with that parent may not be considered in the best interest of the child.
4. The child's desires: This issue varies widely from state to state. Some states refuse to involve the children in this decision entirely, and other states allow for children of a certain age, usually at least early teen-aged years, to have a hand in the decision. Some states use a separate professional, called a custody evaluator, to assist in evaluating the child's preferences.
5. Unfit parents: Obvious issues with one parent such as drug or alcohol abuse, other types of abuse, mental incapacitation, etc, if proven, will result in custody with the fit parent.
Child custody issues are contentious and stressful for all concerned. It is not enough to simply love your child and be certain that you are the best one to be awarded custody, you must prove to the judge that it is in the best interest of the child that you receive custody. Discuss your child custody situation with a divorce attorney from a firm like the Law Offices of Gordon Liebmann who can help you to prove your fitness as the custodial parent.