Family Law: How the Judge Determines Child Custody

Posted on: 25 August 2021

One of the questions many divorcing couples ask is how child custody and visitation rights are determined. Unfortunately, there is no specific formula. 

That said, the judge does use some guidelines when deciding child custody following divorce or separation. In most cases, the judge will assign physical custody where one of the parents lives with the child full-time while the other receives structured visits according to the child's best interest. 

Here's a look at additional factors the judge will use to determine custody.

The Child's Age

One of the criteria the judge uses to determine custody of a child is age. For example, if the child is very young or breastfeeding, the mother is typically granted full custody. 

If they are older, the judge may consider custody by assessing the current living situation, if they are affected by the current custody arrangement or if a disruption is necessary. Alternatively, the judge may ask a custody evaluator to interview your child.

How the Child Relates With the Parents                                                                           

Apart from age, the court might also make the final ruling based on the child's closeness to the parents. For example, if your child is closer to one parent and they can meet their needs, then that parent may be more likely to be granted custody. 

Such instances are common when one of the parents is less present in the child's life. The absentee parent gets visitation rights rather than physical custody. To determine the relationship between you and your little one, the court uses the services of a social worker.

The Mental and Physical Status of the Parent

Although a physically disabled parent often can take care of their child as well as their non-disabled partner, the court still has to consider this factor. Generally, it depends on the level of disability. 

Additionally, mental health or any other form of emotional instability can considerably hinder the affected parent from gaining full child custody. Therefore, if you are a physically or mentally challenged parent, you may only qualify for visitation rights.

The Financial Status and Availability of the Parent

If you are financially stable, you are more likely to gain full custody of the child. However, this also depends on how much time or traveling your job requires. If the job takes too much of your time, you might not be too lucky. Instead, the court will be more likely to grant custody to the available parent. 

Although these are the common determiners for the judge's final decision, each case differs, depending on many more factors. Make sure you talk to your lawyer about what to expect. Contact a family law firm to learn more.