How Custody Decisions Are Made

If you are a parent going through a divorce, there is more at stake than just who gets the house. You may be worried about custody and visitation issues and how the courts make their determinations. How are child custody decisions made?

Get along

The easiest way for the court to make a determination on child custody is when the parents come to an agreement first. Whether the parents have attorneys assist them in coming to a settlement negotiation or the couple goes through mediation, if both parents agree to an arrangement, the courts will usually allow it.

If neither party can agree then the courts (usually a family court judge) will determine what is in the best interest of the child or children. Most of us have heard the saying "best interest of the child", but what does that actually mean? How does the court determine WHAT is the best interest of the child?

Best Interest

The "best interest" of the child usually means making a decision with the ultimate goal of the child's happiness, security, and mental and emotion health. Ideally, this includes fostering a positive relationship with both parents, allowing the child to maintain a close and loving bond with them. Some of the main factors common in analyzing what is in the best interest of the child include:

  • Wishes of the child as long as they are old enough to express a preference
  • Mental and physical health of the parents
  • If a child has special needs and the ability of the parents to meet them
  • Religious and cultural considerations
  • Stable home environment
  • Other children whose custody is relevant
  • Access to a support system such as grandparents
  • School and community ties
  • Age and sex of the child
  • Evidence of parental drug, alcohol, or child/sex abuse

Unmarried parents

When it comes to child custody, custody disputes are often treated the same as for divorcing couples but without all of the other factors that divorce brings to the table. The courts will likely determine who the child's "primary caretaker" is. Often the mother gets priority over the father, but this may not be the case anymore. Like divorcing couples, if the parents can work it out without the court's involvement, it is much easier, but if they can't then the courts will make the decisions for them.

Contact a Child Custody Attorney in Bryan

To speak with an experienced attorney at the Law Office of Brian Turner about a child custody or visitation matter, contact me online or call 979-583-9200. We represent clients throughout Brazos County.