3 factors that determine a custody decision

Few things are more stressful than a divorce, but if you have kids, the situation can be even more difficult to handle. As you separate from your spouse, you must also determine what is best for your kids, and that is not always an easy process. Custody disputes are often complicated and contentious, but you can minimize your own stress by better understanding what to expect from the process.

One of the most common questions divorcing parents have is what factors will determine the custody ruling. There is no single formula that the courts apply, but generally, there are a few things that a judge will take into consideration if your custody case goes to court.

1. Best interests of child

Generally, the first standard that determines how you and your ex will share custody is the best interests of your children. This is exactly what it sounds like — and a court will consider all circumstances in your lives and the life of your child in order to decide what custody arrangement is most beneficial. According to The Spruce, best interest refers to providing kids with consistency and safety.

2. Quality of relationship 

Courts will also consider the quality of the relationship the kids have with each of their parents. If a child seems estranged from one parent, the courts will not overlook this. Similarly, if a child clearly has a better relationship with one parent, that parent is likely to have some favor in a custody dispute. To determine the quality of the parental relationship, judges may interview both the kids and parents.

3. Child’s expressed wishes

The extent to which children can determine their own custody arrangement depends primarily on how old they are. A court is unlikely to listen to the preferences of a five-year-old seriously, but a child who is 10 years old might have a significant say in the outcome of a custody dispute. If a child expresses a desire to live with one parent, the judge will typically take this into consideration in the custody decision.