Child custody lawyers

3 Key Factors That Influence Child Custody Decisions

Whether a parent has a history of domestic violence or substance abuse can play a big role in custody decisions. Strong testimony from friends, family members, and others can help a judge to determine that the abusive parent is unfit to care for children.

Courts seek to maintain stability and continuity in a child’s life. This includes schools, activities, neighborhood and church ties, and peer relationships.

Child’s Needs

In most cases, judges making child custody Red Bank, NJ decisions focus on the best interests of the children involved. This can mean many different things, but it typically involves minimizing disruption to the child’s routine and maintaining consistency in living arrangements and extracurricular activities whenever possible.

A parent’s financial situation also gets considered, although this does not carry as much weight as it might seem. Access to a safe, comfortable living space with enough room for the child’s needs is important, as well as the proximity of that home to school, playgrounds, and other social or family connections.

A judge will usually evaluate a parent’s relationship with their child and whether they have a history of domestic violence or drug use. Abuse or addiction can hurt a parent’s case, while a criminal record is likely to keep a person from being awarded custody.

Child’s Age

Like all jurisdictions, courts make custody decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child. A child’s age can influence this, but not to the extent you might expect.

A young child may tell a judge they want to live with one parent because “mom always lets me play with dad.” This can influence a decision, but a judge also weighs many other factors.

School-aged children are typically more mature and can offer more informed opinions. Nevertheless, this doesn’t necessarily mean a child’s preference will be weighed greatly. If a child has witnessed abuse or neglect by one parent, it might sway a decision. But this is rare. Most judges prefer not to allow a child’s preferences to be the sole factor.

Child’s Responsibilities

Disrupting a child’s routine, living arrangements, and social connections can have a huge impact on their lives. Judges usually prefer arrangements that allow children to maintain stability in their lives.

Whether either parent can provide a safe and stable environment will play an important role in custody decisions. Judges will assess parents’ financial independence and work schedules, for example. Parents with a history of substance abuse, mental health issues, or physical disabilities that would prevent them from caring for a child are less likely to be awarded custody.

Ultimately, judges will consider the child’s preferences if they are old enough to express them. Still, these will be balanced against factors like parental stability, the proximity of the parents’ homes, and psychiatric evaluations.

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