Once parents decide to divorce, one of their top priorities is determining child custody arrangements. Although some couples can create a fair and reasonable custody arrangement between themselves, others will have to seek assistance through the court. If you have to go through court to decide your custody arrangements, the judge will make the final decision.
You should prepare yourself for the custody process ahead of your case. Before you head to court, know about what factors a judge will consider when making custody arrangement decisions for your children.
What Are the Different Options for Child Custody?
Child custody comes in different formats and is ultimately decided by evaluating the needs of the children and the parenting capabilities of each parent. In some instances, the court will award each parent a shared custody arrangement, which provides each parent the opportunity to share the responsibilities.
In other cases, the court will provide primary custody to one parent. If this happens, the non-custodial parent will receive visitation with the children — except for specific instances when the court will not permit contact with the children and the non-custodial parent. If the judge determines you do not have the ability to have visitation, you may still receive supervised visitation with your children. This usually occurs in a neutral location with a court liaison present during your visit with the children.
The judge may require you to complete different activities or therapies to receive unsupervised visitation with the children.
What Factors Will the Court Evaluate to Make Custody Decisions?
When a custody case goes to court, a family law judge will look at a variety of factors to determine custody based on the interest and needs of the children.
The judge will examine the relationship between the children and each parent. The judge may also look at how each child interacts with their siblings or anyone else who will live in the respective households. In addition, the judge will consider which parent has acted as the primary care provider for the children before the divorce.
Parents are also examined during custody arrangements. The judge will evaluate each parent's mental, emotional, and physical health, as well as each parent's capability to care for the children. This stage is usually also the point at which the judge will look at each parent's work schedule, where each parent lives, and the lifestyle of each parent.
Additionally, the judge will evaluate each parent's location and the children's wishes for the custody arrangement — if the children are of age to make a decision for themselves. A judge will also probably look into the history of each parent regarding any abuse or domestic violence issues.
Are Custody Arrangements Final?
Once the judge makes a determination on your custody arrangement, you may or may not be happy with the outcome. If you do not like the outcome, your attorney may be able to have the judge look at the case again. The judge may or may not be willing to look at the case again, depending on the circumstances.
If you need to make changes to your custody arrangement at a later time due to changes in your life, you can request a custody modification. In addition, if you suspect your children are mistreated in the other parent's home, call your attorney right away and ask for an emergency custody hearing.
If you have any questions pertaining to family law or need assistance with your case, please contact us at The Madden Law Firm Attorneys at Law. We provide straightforward, professional legal assistance for those in the Little Rock area and surrounding areas.