Custody of the children has always been a sensitive and emotional area when facing a divorce. Ultimately, the courts want to provide the best environment possible for the child, but it’s not always an easy task to determine what that environment should be. In the past, our legal system had a tendency to favor the mother and award minimum visitation to the dads, believing that mothers had a natural ability to create a more loving and stable environment. But those days are changing.
Today, courts prefer to keep both parents active in the child’s life and will lean toward a joint custody arrangement as often as possible. Even in cases where the mother is deemed to be the primary caregiver, the father can still receive liberal visitation rights and also continue to participate in the decision making process through joint legal custody.
Because the courts no longer rely on the old gender stereotype, a number of more appropriate factors are taken into consideration when awarding custody.
First and foremost, the court looks at who’s asking for custody and if the parent’s have already worked out an agreeable and feasible arrangement. For more information on making these arrangements, check out this book on builiding a parenting agreement that works.
The judge will then consider the financial stability of both parents, as well as their mental and physical ability to care for the child. Work schedules, lifestyles and place of residence also come into play as does the amount of disruption a particular arrangement might cause the child.
If the parents live far away for example, it may not be feasible to award a joint custody arrangement where the child moves between houses on a monthly basis. Likewise, a parent who works seven days a week and is rarely home may not be able to provide the best living situation for long periods of time.
Likewise, a parent who travels frequently, works long hours or demonstrates little patience and/or a short temper will be less appealing to the courts than the parent with a flexible schedule that allows plenty of time to devote to the kids.
All of these factors will play a part in the court’s decision-making process and in the end, the custody arrangement awarded will be designed to provide a stable and secure environment for the child with as little disruption as possible.