Experiencing a separation with your partner, whether married or unmarried, is never easy, and this is even more difficult when a child needs to be taken into consideration. Battling for custody can be an arduous journey, and it’s always helpful to know what will be taken into account if you find yourself in a court for parental responsibility.
There are many factors that can influence a judge’s decision. Here, we explain what those factors are and how living conditions affect child custody decisions.
Child Custody Battles and How Child Custody Decisions are Made
When two people separate and are both responsible for a child, a custody decision is required to decide who will have responsibility for the child and what the rights are of each individual. Sole custody is when one party has complete custody of the child, while shared custody means both parties can have access to the child and share the responsibility.
In some cases, both parties may not be able to come to an agreement in regard to the custody arrangements. This may happen if the separation is less than civil, and both parties may be fighting for sole custody of the child. This is when a custody battle occurs, in which those involved will need to go to trial to decide on the custody arrangements.
The general consideration for this decision is what is in the best interests of the child.
Any child custody decisions will depend largely on the particular circumstances of the separation and what kind of agreement can be reached by court order if informal discussions haven’t been successful.
What a Judge Usually Considers When Granting Custody
When granting custody, a judge’s priority will always be the welfare of the child in question. This also includes taking into consideration how the child feels and what they want. In making a decision, the judge will need to consider the emotional, physical, and educational requirements of the child and how a custody arrangement would affect these requirements. The child’s safety, and the importance of having their needs met by the parent, will need to be called into question, as well as important lifestyle and financial considerations.
- The child’s feelings. If old enough to provide input in court, the judge will consider the child’s emotional state and feedback (although, at 16 years of age, a child has the right to directly choose which parent to live with).
- The parents’ input. The judge will need to consider who is able to dedicate the most time and care to the child, who has been the most responsible in the child’s upbringing thus far and also take into consideration any damaging lifestyle factors, such as substance abuse.
- Considerations of marriage and parental responsibility. If the parents in question are a heterosexual married couple, both parents have equal responsibility. If unmarried, the mother has automatic responsibility, and the father (if not listed on the birth certificate) will then need to lobby for shared custody. If the situation revolves around a same-sex married couple, both have equal responsibility if named on the birth certificate. When dealing with adopted children, the initial agreement of parental responsibility will need to be referred to.
- Living conditions. The lifestyle and conditions in which a child would be exposed to with each parent will need to be taken into consideration to ensure a safe and happy home.
- Employment. Financial stability is important to support a child. Therefore, a parent with more secure employment may be favored.
- Criminal Record. A judge will have to consider any history of criminal activity for either parent.
Which Living Conditions May Affect Child Custody Decisions
The judge’s priority, as mentioned, is the safety and well-being of the child. There are a lot of hazards related to a living situation, outside of what a parent can provide or what the emotional needs of the child are.
A child’s home needs to be safe and secure, which also refers to the neighborhood in which they live, the condition of the housing (such as being exposed to structural damage or anything which can be harmful to health), or having enough space in a home to raise a child in a healthy way.
This means that even if a parent can fulfill the emotional and financial needs of a child, and that child may prefer to live with a particular parent, this can still be affected if the parent in question lives in a dangerous neighborhood, has a property which does not have enough room for a growing child, or has a home environment considered unsafe.
Living conditions that will need to be taken into account, and which can affect child custody decisions, include:
Enough Sleeping Space
Children living or staying overnight at the property will need to have adequate space. This means their own bed and space to sleep safely, and not sharing a small bed with the parent or other children, for example.
A child’s development and education are important. It’s key for a judge to avoid changing a child’s school and taking them away from friends. However, if a move needs to be made, it’s important for the child to have access to quality schooling in the area.
This is particularly important for an older child, such as a teen. Having their own bedroom is important for an older child, as well as having enough space to grow and take part in hobbies as part of their routine.
A parent would be expected to be able to uphold the household bills and living costs associated with raising a child in their home.
Type of Property
Your living situation may see you living in a house, flat, camper van, or even a houseboat. Type of property will need to be taken into consideration, as some would be more suitable for a child than others.
Which Living Conditions are Considered Suitable for a Child?
With safety and comfort being the top priority, a living situation suitable for a child will be one that ideally matches the following criteria:
- The child will have their own room.
- The child will have enough space.
- The child will be within a home that has dependable financial support.
- The child would ideally not have to compromise because of other children in the home.
- The property is safe and structurally sound.
- The property’s location is based near schools, healthcare services, and other amenities which the child will need to stay safe, happy, and healthy.
- The property is within a safe neighborhood.
In Closing: Find an Experienced Family Lawyer with The Spagnola Law Firm
If you require any legal advice and representation for a custody arrangement or would like to find out more about how child chcustody decisions are made, speak to one of our Greensboro family law representatives at The Spagnola Law Firm.