When parents divorce and they have children in common, they must address child custody. Sometimes, parents can come to a mutually acceptable agreement about custody but often the court must decide instead.
The court’s primary concern is the best interest of the child. This means that in some situations, it may deny one parent custody.
Best interest of the child
The court will review several factors to decide what is in the child’s best interest. The court may consider the child’s age, health and safety, the child’s physical, emotional and developmental needs and whether each parent can provide a stable environment for the child.
It may also consider whether the parents are willing to cooperate with each other, the child’s relationship with each parent and other significant family relationships.
Sometimes, if the child is old enough to decide, the court will consider the child’s preferences. Ultimately; however, that is not the sole factor for the court.
The court may deny custody to a parent where there has been a history of alcohol or drug abuse, physical violence in the home or emotional disruptions. Also, if the parent does not have a stable living situation or has inconsistent employment, the court may decide to deny custody.
If the parent can’t provide for the child’s basic needs, such as food, shelter, clothing and medical care, the court may find that the child is best placed with the other parent.
If a parent needs help with child custody matters, there is assistance available.