What determines who gets primary custody?

Griffin Law, PLLC
Jan 09, 2023

When parents decide to get a divorce, a key concern is who will have primary custody of the children. Battles can become even more contentious and painful.

If parents can come to an amicable arrangement, a judge will favor using that agreement. If the parents cannot devise a plan, the court uses the following guidelines to determine primary custody.

The best interests and needs of the child

This factor is the overarching concern for the court. A judge evaluates where the child can thrive and fulfill physical, emotional, spiritual and educational needs. The court can consider the child’s preference but has no obligation to do so.

Each parent’s ability to provide

The court also considers each parent’s ability to provide a safe and secure home environment for the child. A judge considers each parent’s current living situation, employment status and financial stability to determine if both parents can provide a good home life for their child.

Home environment

A parent’s character and the general home environment play a role as well. The court will review where each parent lives and if either individual has any prior criminal convictions, a history of drug abuse, issues with alcoholism or signs of abuse or neglect.

Time available to spend with the child

A parent’s work schedule could influence a custody decision. The court may also look at other commitments that might prevent one parent from having more available time with their children than another, such as travel obligations.

While custody battles are rarely pleasant, parents do better to consider what is advantageous for the children instead of using them as bargaining chips. When a parent unselfishly works for a child’s interests, custody arrangements allow for a more peaceful transition.

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