Most parents want to remain in their children’s lives after divorce, and so will likely try to negotiate a shared child custody plan with their spouse. If the two sides cannot agree on custody, the parents may have to go to court and have the family law court judge decide on a custody arrangement.

Determining child custody can be complicated. Judges must make the best interests of the child the top consideration, but figuring out what exactly is in his or her best interests usually involves answering many questions. For example:

  • Can the parents continue to co-parent after divorce?
  • How well can each parent encourage the child to continue to have a close relationship with the other parent?
  • Is there a history of abuse or parental kidnapping by either parent?
  • How closely together do the parents live?
  • How are the child’s relationships with his or her parents and siblings?
  • Should the child stay at his or her current school?
  • If the child is old enough to make a reasoned decision, which parent would he or she prefer to spend more of his or her time living with?

There are more considerations than we have space to discuss here. Suffice it to say that judges are supposed to take the question of child custody seriously, so that the trauma of their parents’ separation affects the kids as little as possible.

For parents, the best way they can have their wishes taken into account is to have an experienced family law attorney on their side.