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Understanding the factors in a child custody case

Deciding on child custody is often one of the most contentious pieces for divorcing couples with children. Each spouse desperately wants to make sure their child is properly cared for and each may have opposing views on the other's parenting. Typically, each parent also wants to make sure quality time with the children is fair and equal.

For many parents who first come to Katie L. Lewis, P.C. Family Law, questions often turn to what the courts look at when deciding on custody and what a parent can do to prepare for custody hearings.

In general, the court will consider several factors in a custody case, including:

  • The financial and physical ability of both parents when it comes to providing for the child
  • The physical and mental health history of the parents
  • The habits of the parents, such as drinking and smoking, and what the parents do for a living
  • The age, gender, and medical history of the child
  • The wishes of the parents and the bond the child has with them
  • The wishes of the child if the child is old enough -- generally 12 or older -- to make their opinions known
  • How much adjustment would need to be made for the child
  • How willing each parent would be to support the child's relationship with the other parent

    Additionally, the court may consider whether there have been false accusations brought by either parent against the other parent, such as child abuse or domestic violence. Ultimately, the court is looking for what will be in the child's best interest over the long term.

    What can a parent do to better their custody and visitation odds?

    Even before officially filing for divorce, parents can take strategic steps to better their case for custody and visitation rights. For example, if one parent is not as involved in the bedtime routine, or just not as active in their child's life, now is the time to get involved. Get to know the child's friends, teachers and coaches. Collect any and all evidence that could further backup involvement too, such as homework logs or day care logs. This will show the courts that you are a parent who wants to continue to have an active role in your child's life.

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