How is child custody decided when parents split up?

Child custody, for most parents, is the main focus of the divorce case. They care about asset division and things of this nature, but they really care the most about maintaining a relationship with their children.

To work toward this end goal, you need to know how custody and visitation decisions are made.

Can you make your own decision?

The first thing you should know is that you can often make your own custody decision. If you and your ex can agree, and as long as the agreement fits the court’s standards — and the law — they can approve it.

The catch is that you and your ex have to work together to come to this decision, and not all people can do that. If you cannot, the court will decide, and they’ll consider things like:

  • Which one of you spent the most time with the children as their primary caregiver
  • Your mental and physical health
  • The children’s specific needs
  • The children’s own wishes, if expressed
  • The age and gender of the children
  • Where the children live and go to school
  • What both you and your ex’s living spaces are like
  • If anyone in the family has a history of abuse, drug use, or anything else that could put the children at risk
  • If there are any cultural or religious details to consider

In short, the court tries to make the best decision for the children. They will consider what you want, as a parent, and what your ex wants, but what the children need has to come first. If you’re involved in a case like this, you do want to know what legal options you have along the way.