Negotiating a Custody Agreement in the Best Interest of Your Children

The end goal for all court custody battles is to determine the best interest of the child. Since children are the most effected by a custody battle, the best interest is the placement that will best suit the child’s needs and allow the child to learn, thrive and grow intellectually, emotionally, and physically. There are many things the court will take into consideration to determine the best interest of the child, including but not limited to parental skills, location and cleanliness of the home, quality of schools and neighborhoods, existing arrangements, parental availability, and in some cases, preference of the child.

Ideally, the parents can agree on custody arrangements as they usually know what is best for the child, but in some cases the parents will disagree on what is best for the child. In these cases, a Family Division Judge will make the best decision possible with the knowledge that they are provided. It is usually best to try to help create the custody agreement with the other parent rather than leave it entirely up to the judge as the judge doesn’t know your child’s needs as well as you do and you will be much happier with an arrangement you were a part of creating.

When going into a custody battle, you will need to prove that custody with you is the best arrangement for your child. To do this, you must collect and document information supporting your claim. Document how involved the other parent is in the child’s life, school activities, medical appointments, family events, and any other events that prove you are the main caretaker of the child. Here are a few factors the judge will consider in order to determine what the best interests of the child are:

The parent is required to provide shelter and a positive living environment for the child. Although this is typically not the determining factor, it is important in the decision making. The distance between the parents home, distance from school, and the cleanliness and accommodations, including a bedroom for the child, are all factors that come into play in a custody battle. Photos of the living environment would be a good idea to provide to your lawyer.

The most important factor in determining the child’s best interest is the current living arrangement and whether or not the child is thriving in the current situation. The judge is not likely to disrupt the child’s routine, activities, and schooling by changing the primary physical custody. If you are asking the court to consider changing the current living arrangements, you must provide good reason on why the new living situation would be less disruptive and in the child’s best interest.

The preference of the child is typically only considered in older, mature children with adequate reasoning skills. It is very important not to try and influence the child’s preference as the custody evaluator will usually be able to tell if a child has been persuaded. This does not look good on the parent as it shows the parent is involving the child in the parental conflicts. A young child’s preference will usually not be considered, where a teenagers preference is more influential.

Custody can not be denied to a parent simply because they work full-time to support themselves, but it is important for the parent to provide childcare, transportation, and other arrangements while the parent is at work if granted full custody. If both parents are deemed fit, there may be an advantage to the full-time parent as they are more able to be involved with the child.

In order to determine the parental skills and best interests of the child, the judge can appoint a custody evaluator or a child development psychologist to interview the parents, the child or children, close family members, and others involved in the family’s lives. This will allow the judge to get a better idea of the parenting skills of the parents and the daily life of the family.

It is important to remember to start documenting everything as soon as possible. If you do not document, you will have no proof in court and your word is just as good as the other parent’s word. As every custody case is different, it is best to seek legal advice from a professional in your area.