Previously, we began looking at some of the factors family courts take into consideration when making child custody determinations. As we noted, the central factor in any case is the best interests of the child, though judges look a variety of factors when considering what arrangement will really be best for a child.
With regard to factors relating directly to the child, judges will consider things like: the home, school and community involvement and record of the child; the child's mental and physical health; the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining some continuity of living arrangements; and the reasonable preference of the child, when warranted.
Some best interest factors involve the relationship between the parent and the child, such as the love, affection and emotional ties between the parent and the child, and existence of any domestic violence, whether directly involving the child or witnessed by the child. Judges may take into consideration any other factor relevant to the custody dispute as well, and each case is going to be a little different.
For parents, advocacy in child custody cases always has to be situated in the context of the best interests of the child. So, while the parents do have the right to petition for custody, it is not ultimately their interests that determine the outcome. That being said, it is important for parents to work with an experienced advocate, especially in contentious cases, to ensure that the court has accurate and complete information regarding the various best interest factors. This allows the court to make the most informed decision possible.