Oftentimes, the most difficult decision when raising a child apart from the other parent is when the child is going to spend time with each of the parents.
Often, clients ask how a court will determine custody. Courts determine custody by looking at a number of factors to determine what is in the best interests of the child. These factors include, but are not limited to:
- The wishes of the child’s parents as to custody and the proposed parenting plan submitted by both parties;
- The needs of the child for a frequent, continuing and meaningful relationship with both parents and the ability and willingness of parents to actively perform their functions as mother and father for the needs of the child;
- The interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
- Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent;
- The child’s adjustment to the child’s home, school, and community;
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved…
- The intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child; and
- The wishes of a child as to the child’s custodian…
When determining custody, a court will determine both legal and physical custody.
Legal custody is the decision-making rights, responsibilities and authority relating to the health, education and welfare of the child. If a court orders joint legal custody, the parents should confer with one another in making decisions for the child.
Physical custody is when the child resides with or is under the care and supervision of the parent. If a court orders joint physical custody, the parents may not necessarily have equal parenting time but each parent should have frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the child.
If a parent is not awarded physical custody of the child, they may be awarded reasonable visitation (supervised or unsupervised) unless contact between the child and the parent would endanger the child’s physical health or emotional development.