The court’s primary focus in deciding issues regarding child custody (parental responsibility) is “the best interests of the child.”
The court may assign custody to the parents jointly, to either parent, or to a third party, based upon the facts of the case and subject to such conditions and limitations as it deems equitable. The court may also grant visitation to a third party, including, but not limited to, grandparents.
The court will consider the rights and responsibilities of both parents and will enter orders that serve the best interests of the child, and provide the child with the active and consistent involvement of both parents commensurate with their abilities and interests. Such orders may include, but are not limited to:
(1) Approval of a Parenting Plan agreed to by the parents;
(2) Awarding joint custody to both parents, including: (a) residential arrangements with each parent according to the needs of the child and the parents, and (b) consultation between the parents for major decisions regarding the child’s health, education and religious upbringing;
(3) Awarding sole custody to one parent with appropriate parenting time for the other parent where sole custody is in the best interests of the child; or
(4) Any other custody arrangements the court finds to be in the best interests of the child.
In making or modifying any custody order, the court will consider the best interests of the child, and may consider, but shall not be limited to, one or more of the following factors:
(1) the temperament and developmental needs of the child;
(2) the capacity and disposition of the parents to understand and meet the child’s needs;
(3) any relevant information obtained from the child, including the child’s informed preferences;
(4) the wishes of the parents;
(5) the child’s past and current relationship with each parent, siblings, and other persons who may significantly affect the best interests of the child;
(6) each parent’s willingness and ability to facilitate and encourage a continuing relationship between the child and the other parent, including compliance with any court orders;
(7) a parent’s manipulative/coercive behavior to involve the child in the parents’ dispute;
(8) each parent’s ability to be actively involved in the child’s life;
(9) the child’s adjustment to his/her home, school and community environments;
(10) how long the child has lived in a stable/satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining same. A parent who voluntarily leaves the family home to alleviate stress in the household may be considered favorably by the court;
(11) the stability of the child’s existing or proposed residences;
(12) the mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
(13) the child’s cultural background;
(14) the effect on the child of an abuser’s actions, if any domestic violence has occurred;
(15) whether the child or a sibling has been abused or neglected; and
(16) whether the party satisfactorily completed a Parenting Education Program.
Child custody is a complicated and nuanced issue. My expertise can help you achieve the best results for you and your family. For more information contact me at (203) 544-9945 or firstname.lastname@example.org.