First and foremost, it’s almost always best for two parents to work together with their attorneys — or even through arbitration — to determine the best solutions during a divorce proceeding. Courtroom battles can be hectic, time consuming, and result in even more stress. At the end of the day, you would be leaving the ultimate decision about what happens to your kids in the hands of someone who has spent almost no time in their presence.
When the decision is left up to the courts, though, how will a judge decide which parent or guardian should receive sole custody?
What does the child want? Yes, a judge will want to hear from your children before making the determination of sole custody. The opinions of your child may or may not sway the judge’s decision one way or the other depending on age. Older children will have more of a say (those around the age of twelve or older).
What is in the child’s best interests? Obviously this is an important question to ask, and difficult to answer. The judge won’t know what the child’s life at home is really like — he or she can only infer. That’s why the judge will look at all the information readily available, like income, social standing, character witnesses, etc. A parent who makes less won’t necessarily be prevented from obtaining custody, but if one parent is in poverty and the other makes six figures with a stay-at-home job, it’s not looking good for the parent in poverty. Then again, if the parent who makes six figures does it by selling drugs — you see how things can change on a situation by situation basis.
Who is the child’s primary caretaker? The judge will want an answer to this question. This is partly due to psychology growing up. Children will develop a bond with the person who provides the most support. The bond helps a child grow emotionally throughout adolescence. After a divorce this bond can be especially important. Because so many mothers still fall into this category, a court will more often side with her.
Are the parents married? Unfortunately, an unwed father is much less likely to win custody of a child even if paternity is established. The only way to obtain custody is by proving that the mother is unable to provide for the child’s basic needs. In many cases the best an unwed father can hope for is shared custody, which at least gives him a say in any important legal decisions that must be made in the future.
Child custody battles can often get very heated. Negotiating things such as child support and visitation can be difficult. However, recently we’ve been seeing an increase in child custody cases involving parental alienation; when a parent undermines a child’s relationship with the other parent. Common examples of parent alienation include:
A mother telling a child that the father has abandoned them.
A father telling a child that mommy doesn’t want to spend time with them.
This can be very detrimental to a child’s psyche. Children who believe the manipulation done by their parents often develop something called Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). A child with PAS usually will no longer want to spend any time with the parents that they’ve been tricked into rejecting. Not all children develop PAS, however, if your child is being manipulated into thinking things that aren’t true, it is important to have them evaluated by a psychologist. If you feel that your child is being distant, it is imperative to try to mend the relationship. You do not want to potentially lose custody of your child because they have been brain-washed by your soon to be ex-spouse.
While PAS is not acknowledged in DSM-IV as a true psychological condition, the courts do recognize that it exists. According to experts, there are three levels of child alienation; mild, moderate, and severe. A third-party from the court will perform child custody to determine the severity of the alienation. To repair the relationship, many children will have to undergo therapy. Some judges recommend removing the child from the alienating parent’s home while other judges are hesitant to remove a child from the home is the alienation is severe.
The key to obtaining custody in a child alienation case is to get the courts to move quickly and assign a child custody evaluation and psychologist to assess the situation before the alienation becomes too severe. Contact us today if you feel that your child is at risk of becoming alienated.
Child custody can be one of the biggest decisions that parents will have to make during a divorce, and also the most contentious. If parents aren’t calm and level-headed about the situation, then they might need to head to court. If they aren’t calm and level-headed there, then things could get even worse. Most custody arrangements aren’t decided by the courts because no one wants that. The less than 10 percent that end up there might not benefit either parent or their children.
A “custodial parent” is defined as such because he or she has been given custody by the court system. If the decision is ultimately made in court, then an older child might have a say in where he or she goes. The judge will want to hear all sides, and that means asking about the feelings of the child.
There are probably more custodial parents than you realize. More than 25 percent of children and 48 percent of African American children live in families with a custodial parent. Over half of custodial parents only have a single child. In other words, don’t think you’re alone. Don’t be embarrassed to discuss your situation with friends and family, because it’s common.
Custodial-parent families experience poverty more often than non-custodial-parent families. If you plan to file for divorce, make sure to discuss your financial situation with anyone involved with the decision-making process. If you know you won’t have enough to survive, take the extra time to explore other options before you make a choice you could regret. Ask for help from a qualified divorce attorney for legal advice.
Nearly half of custodial parents receive child support payments from the other parent.
About half of out-of-court arrangements leave the mother with the child. When court factors into the equation, only 17.5 percent of custodial parents are the fathers.
If you’re a father seeking to gain custody of the child, then you should know that courts still seem to favor the mother in situations where sole custody is granted. If you would like to turn the tables to give yourself a better chance, then you need to do two things: show that you can easily support a child on your own, and show that your spouse cannot.