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What Do Judges Consider in Custody Cases?

While no one can guarantee exactly what a judge will find critical in a custody case, there are numerous routine considerations. All judges want to know who lives in the home with the child, or sees the child frequently when he or she is in the care of that parent. This includes new spouses or significant others, siblings, grandparents, extended family members, etc. Judges want to know what kind of relationships other people have with the child. For children in school, a judge will the status of grades, attendance, behavior and other school-related matters to gauge the child’s individual challenges or abilities.

Communications Between Parents

A major concern for the court is how the parents treat each other as it relates to the child. When a parent speaks badly of the other, or discourages the child from enjoying time around the other parent, it is harmful to the child and selfish of that parent. In fact, judges have the right to completely change custody if these facts exist. Children should never feel guilty for loving both mom and dad. On the other hand, as difficult as it may be, a parent who fosters the relationship between the child and the other parent is almost always acting in the child’s best interest.

The Big Picture

Judges want to see what I call “a day in the life” of the child. When he or she is with mom, the routine might be to have lunch with grandma on Saturday and watch movies in the living room. At Dad’s house, the routine might be to go bike-riding on Saturday afternoon and attend church on Sundays. How is homework handled with the parent who spends the most time with the child? Are there friends the same age in the neighborhood? Stability of each parent’s home is a broad topic that includes the frequency of moves from one residence to the other, significant others or employment. Is the child a priority to the parent, or does he or she ignore the child and stay on the computer during the whole visit?

It all comes down to the legal requirement of what is in the best interest of the child, which is an elusive standard. Parents have different personalities, backgrounds and values, and so do judges.  

Amy A. Edwards is a family law attorney in Greenville, NC, certified by the NC State Bar Board of Legal Specialization as a Family Law Specialist, and is licensed only in NC. Laws change. This article is current as of January 2016. www.AmyEdwardsFamilyLaw.com © 2016. 


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