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11 questions to ask when determining child custody rights

Child custody battles often feel more complicated than they need to be simply because parents do not know what the court is looking for. They have never been through this process before, in many cases, so it's brand new territory and it can feel overwhelming.

What you need to remember is that the court is looking out for the best interests of the children. That's what really helps to determine the custody situation. The court wants to keep both parents involved, but they only do so if that provides the best possible living situation for the kids.

To help you see how this works, here are 11 questions they may ask:

  1. Can the parents provide for the child both physically and financially, giving them the essentials that they need?
  2. Does the child's age or gender impact the case?
  3. Do the parents or the child have medical histories that must be considered?
  4. Do the parents have any habits that may put the child at risk, such as a history of alcohol abuse?
  5. Is the child old enough to have a say in the matter?
  6. What do the parents want?
  7. What type of emotional bond do both of the parents have with the child and how can the arrangement preserve it?
  8. Are the parents willing and able to work together so that they can both have a relationship with the child?
  9. Would one custody arrangement force the child to go through unwanted changes, like moving or switching schools?
  10. Is there any evidence of child abuse or other illegal activity?
  11. What is the child's quality of life before the divorce and how can the custody arrangement keep it the same?

These questions get the conversation started. You have to dig down into each answer to find out how it impacts the case.

Quality of life and financial ability

For instance, the reason for asking about the parents' financial abilities after the divorce isn't necessarily to consider their own quality of life, but to look at what they can provide for the child. In high-asset cases, the child's quality of life is typically very high. They may live in a good community, enjoy a private school education and be on track to go to a prestigious university.

The court understands that the divorce should not impact the child's future. A custody arrangement that takes the child out of that school and eliminates the chance to go to a good university has a clear and detrimental effect that can play through the rest of the child's life. The court will attempt to keep the child's life the same by finding a way for the parents to stay involved without forcing these unwanted changes. The goal is to give the child the same opportunities and chances he or she would have enjoyed if the parents had stayed together.

As you and your spouse work through the divorce, keep this end goal in mind and look into all of your legal options.

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