Custody cases can be emotionally draining on a family.
The best case scenario is for a family to work out a visitation plan that ensures the best interests of the children are met.
However, sometimes a family cannot agree on a plan, even with counseling or mediation.
In such a case, the court system has the ability to determine custody and visitation.
They are required, by statute, to review a number of factors in making the determination.
The court must give primary consideration to the best interests of a child.
The court must ensure frequent and continuing contact with both parents, when appropriate, and the court encourages parents to share in the responsibilities of raising their children.
The court may not have a presumption in favor of one parent over the other.
For example, there is no presumption that a father cannot have primary physical custody of a child.
Further, the court must consider the parents as custodians first, but may, upon a showing of clear and convincing evidence that a child’s best interest may be served otherwise, award custody to any other person with a legitimate interest.
The additional factors the court must consider in making a decision regarding custody and visitation are as follows:
- The age and physical and mental condition of the child, giving due consideration to the child's changing developmental needs;
- The age and physical and mental condition of each parent;
- The relationship existing between each parent and each child, giving due consideration to the positive involvement with the child's life, the ability to accurately assess and meet the emotional, intellectual and physical needs of the child;
- The needs of the child, giving due consideration to other important relationships of the child, including but not limited to siblings, peers and extended family members;
- The role which each parent has played and will play in the future, in the upbringing and care of the child;
- The propensity of each parent to actively support the child's contact and relationship with the other parent, including whether a parent has unreasonably denied the other parent access to or visitation with the child;
- The relative willingness and demonstrated ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child, and the ability of each parent to cooperate in and resolve disputes regarding matters affecting the child;
- The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of reasonable intelligence, understanding, age and experience to express such a preference;
- Any history of family abuse.
Custody can be awarded as “joint legal custody” wherein both parents share joint decision-making responsibilities for the children, even if the children reside primarily with one parent.
Custody may also be awarded as “sole custody” wherein one parent retains responsibility for the care and control of a child and primary authority to make decisions concerning the child.
Visitation can vary widely, ranging from a 50/50 split, to weekends and holidays, to supervised visitation, depending on the best interests of the child and the proximity of the visiting parent.
The lawyers at The Bowen Law Firm are committed to handling your child custody case with empathy and dignity, striving all the while to ensure the best interests of the child are served.
We have also handled many relocation cases wherein a parent with primary physical custody wants to move out of state or out of the country with the children.
If you have questions about custody and visitation, please contact The Bowen Law Firm to schedule an in-depth consultation regarding the specifics of your case.