Jan 15

What Does the Judge Take into Consideration when Making a Decision About Child Custody?

When you and your ex separate, you will need to determine custody of your child. In some cases, exes can use a mediator and agree to terms of custody without having to go to court. In other cases, the fight for child custody can become heated, and parents are often required to attend a child custody hearing so that the judge can determine custody.

Child custody will vary from state to state and from case to case. Sometimes, one parent will be given sole physical and legal custody of a child, and in others, parents will be given joint legal custody of the child.

When you are in court for child custody, there are many different things the judge will take into consideration when making a decision. The following are a few of those considerations.

Parental Legal History
The judge is going to look into the backgrounds of both parents during a custody hearing. Everything from parking tickets to incarcerations will be up for review. If one of the parents has a history of criminal activity, it may reflect poorly on that parent, and the judge may be swayed to give custody to the other parent. Obviously, criminal history that took place many years ago is less of an issue as crimes that are more recent.

Living Conditions
A judge will also look at the current living conditions of both parents. If one parent lives in a nice neighborhood with good schools and low crime, and the other parent lives in squalor, the judge will be more inclined to give physical custody to the parent with the better (and more stable) home. If both parents have equal living conditions, this too will also be noted.

Income/Job Stability
As a parent, you need to provide for your child. A judge will look at a parent’s income as well as their job stability to help determine custody. A parent with a good job and a long record of employment will look favorably to the judge over a parent with a sketchy job history. Again, if both parents make similar income and have similar stability, this too will be noted.

Work Schedules
In most cases, a judge will want a child to spend as much time with both parents as possible. If your job requires you to travel three weeks out of the month, this may not work in your favor, as you won’t be spending quality time with your child when you’re traveling for work. This may result in your ex getting physical custody of your child, especially if they too can provide a stable home and have a schedule that allows them to spend more time with the child.

If you and your ex both work, the judge will take both of your schedules into consideration when determining when and how often each parent can see their child.

Child’s Preference
Sometimes, depending on the child’s age, the judge will take the child’s choice into consideration. While many children don’t want to choose between their parents, sometimes they may want to live with a certain parent over the other for a specific reason. If this is the case, the judge may ask your child his or her preference, and use this to make their final ruling.