When a divorce involves minor children, parents can expect to resolve several issues. Custody should be decided first because visitation and child support are usually based on custody. Find out more below.
Kitchen Table Agreements
When a couple can decide on important divorce issues among themselves, it's known as a kitchen table agreement. This is the very best way for couples to divorce. Parents know what is best for their children and can decide on custody themselves. Unfortunately, not all couples get along enough to speak to each other, let alone come to an agreement.
The Judge Gets Help
Any issue not addressed by the couple will be up to the judge. First, though, some judges take a few steps to try and get the couple on track to an agreement. They may ask (or order) the couple to attend mediation. A mediator works with the couple to try and bring about a meeting of the mind about contested issues.
The judge may also order a child study to be done. This study is performed by a specialist in the mental health field. They may be child psychologists, social workers, or child therapists. This professional will interview the child, the parents, and others to determine who serves as the best custodial parent for the child.
The Judge Decides
Judges look at divorce as being extremely unhealthy for children, though necessary for the parents. The idea is that divorce should affect the child as little as possible. They place the well-being of the child above that of the parents in all situations. To show that you are the best parent to be awarded custody, you should be ready to show that the child will benefit from your parenting. Don't bother considering what is best for yourself — that is not at issue.
The judge will take the below factors into consideration then they make their decision:
- Living Arrangements: In many cases, the parent who stays in the family home may also be awarded child custody. The child is better off in a stable home that they are accustomed to living in. They may benefit from having the same friends, neighbors, and school. On the other hand, a parent who is couch-surfing is not providing the child with a stable living situation.
- Parenting Behavior: The child study will often pick out parenting behaviors that are less than desirable from the judge's point of view. One common issue is parents that are reluctant to allow the other parent access to the child. Barring parental unfitness, be ready to be generous with visitation.
Talk to your divorce lawyer to find out more about winning a custody battle the right way. For more information, contact a divorce law office near you.