People generally prefer to have direct, black-and-white answers when they have questions about divorce, but family law just doesn’t work like that. Particularly when there are children in a family, there are so many variables that predicting the exact outcome of divorce proceedings is all but impossible unless both adults involved mutually agree to all of the terms of their split.
Parents need to understand the rules that guide a judge’s decisions when they must split up parenting time and the legal authority that parents have over their children. Usually, the most important consideration will be what a judge believes is in the best interests of the children. Even that may seem incredibly subjective to those not familiar with the concept. The following factors often play a major role in the process of establishing what is in the best interests of the children in the family during a contentious custody dispute (as parents who can reach mutually-agreeable terms do not need to concern themselves with a judge’s approach in this way).
The current parent-child relationships
One of the more important considerations that will influence what a judge believes would work well for the children is the current breakdown of parental responsibilities. The more time someone spends with the children and the better their relationship is with the kids, the more likely a judge is to agree that them having copious amounts of time with the children would be in their best interests. That being said, even someone who rarely spends time alone with the children still has a right to seek parenting time and could potentially become a much more involved parent in a co-parenting relationship.
The needs of the child
When deciding how the parents can best provide for their children, a judge needs to understand the children’s overall requirements. Situations involving children with special needs often put more pressure on parents because they will need to have certain training or medical supplies available to properly care for the children in the household.
The abilities and schedules of the parents
Someone can be a very loving parent and yet not be in a position to provide for the children at the time of a custody dispute. Maybe they don’t yet have their own place to live and therefore do not have the ability to provide the housing and other basic amenities necessary to raise children. Perhaps they have physical or mental health challenges that they will need to address in order to be present for their children and meet their needs appropriately during their parenting time. Even the careers of the parents and when they will be awake or available can influence what a judge believes would be in the best interests of the children.
Parents who are worried about their rights because of an uneven division of household responsibilities, personal challenges and/or other factors may feel more confident once they understand that judges truly want what is best for children, which usually means seeking to work with both parents as much as possible unless there is a truly compelling reason to alter this approach.