Child custody is usually a primary concern during the divorce process for divorcing parents. Understanding how child custody is determined can be a helpful guide for parents to know what to expect and to help them reach a child custody arrangement that is best for their child and family.

Navigating the child custody process can take an emotional toll on parents and families. Because it typically an emotional topic, it can be useful to understand how it is decided. Child custody decisions are made based on what is in the best interests of the child. A variety of different factors are used to determine what that is because it is different in each unique situation.

Factors evaluated to determine what is in the child’s best interests include:

  • The preference of the child based on their age;
  • The child’s relationships with siblings;
  • The need to maintain consistency in the child’s education, community and family life;
  • Which parent is more likely to care for the child’s physical, emotional, developmental and educational needs of the child;
  • Which parent is more likely to care for any special needs of the child;
  • Which parent is more likely to maintain a loving, nurturing, consistent and stable relationship with the child;
  • Which parent is most likely to encourage and allow for frequent contact between the child and the other parent; and
  • Any history of abuse or criminal activity

The goal of using the best interests of the child as a standard to guide child custody decisions is to help parents and the court focus on a child custody arrangement that will achieve the overall safety and well-being of the child. Working out child custody can be challenging for all parties which is why it is useful to utilize family law resources to reach a favorable child custody outcome.