A Quick Look at Factors Judges Use in Deciding Custody

Divorce is a messy affair. What used to be united by love is now divided by hate. And as things turn out, it gets ugly as can be. Quite often, marriages that were seemingly rock-solid show their awful sides once the partners are on opposing sides of a divorce settlement. Even the filthy rich are not exempt. The marriages of some of the richest billionaires in America such as Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos are fine examples.

Recently, however, another marriage of an A-lister is breaking. This time from the ranks of the NBA. Dell Curry, former NBA player and father of top-caliber NBA icon Steph Curry, is separating from his wife, Sonya Curry. A marriage that went official since 1988 is breaking up. And with it, tons of dirty linen were made public, including cases of infidelity on both sides.

Far too often, however, it’s the children that are worse affected by any divorce. The Dell-Sonya Curry divorce won’t have that problem as all their three children are set. Steph and Seth Curry are both playing for NBA teams while their younger sister, Sidell, is married to an NBA player.

But studies that span decades have shown that children of divorced parents are not as healthy and not as academically successful as those that come from solid marriages.

If you’re filing for a divorce, one question that may be lurking deep in your mind is the case of custody. Before you get the wrong impression, know that every divorce case is unique. But, in general, there are things judges usually consider when granting custody. Here’s a first look.

Age of the Children

Right off the bat, know that the standard used by all states in deciding custody cases is the “child’s best interest”. It can certainly be contentious as there are many ways to define the child’s best interest. But that gives us an idea that it’s the welfare of the child that moves a judge to decide which parent should take custody.

Far too often, as contentious as a custody issue is, divorce mediation is called upon. Such mediation is favorable for both sides as a neutral third party facilitates an amicable settlement. As both parties discuss a solution to a host of divorce issues, more often than not, agreeable terms are reached.

Officially, the “tender years” principle has been thrown out the window in divorce proceedings. The principle favors the mother to take care of children in their tender years, considered to be from four and under. But, there are still old-fashioned judges who believe younger kids should be with their biological mothers.

Of course, in the case of a nursing baby, it’s no contest. The mother takes custody at that stage.

parents fighting over their child

Each Parents’ Living Situation 

It can get complicated but it’s quite simple really. If you’re not in a good position to take good care of your children, chances are the judge won’t grant you custody. For instance, if you don’t even have work and are living in your friend’s basement, that certainly shows the children would find it hard living with you. But if you’re living in the family home and have a stable income, there’s a good chance the judge will favor you over your partner who may be out of a job.

Each Parent’s Willingness to Cooperate

Let’s face it. The court will want both parents to raise the child/children even if it’s on a scheduled basis. But if a judge sees that a parent is messing with the agreed schedule on co-parenting, he may favor the parent who is more cooperative.

For one, a parent who badmouths the other parent is seen as seeking to alienate the child and may face the consequence. Courts see such mischief as unwarranted and may teach you a lesson if you behave that way.

Each Parent’s Relationship with the Child 

A parent, of good standing, sincerely wants to spend more time with their children after divorce, then the judge may consider such a request. The important thing is that the parent has not been neglectful of their duties as a parent even when not much involved in the lives of their kids. Of course, the judge will look into the intent if it’s sincere.

History of abuse or neglect can be a point against you in this regard. Sometimes, the judge may consult the child, especially if the kid is older (12 and up),  to know their wishes. He might want to learn of the child’s preference through a custody evaluator.

In the end, it’s all about getting the child to a more favorable situation. So, usually, if things are doing fine, you may have an advantage over a spouse who may want to factor in major changes in your current setup (visitation schedule, custody).

It’s important, therefore, that you see things clearly before making a judgment call. Consult with your lawyer to consider your options. Above and beyond,  bear in mind the child’s welfare matters most in custody battles.

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