The Court determines who receives custody of the minor child based upon “THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD” (not the parents!). The Court has broad discretion and the Court’s determination is presumed to be correct. On appeal, it is extremely difficult to prove that a Judge committed error when applying this standard.
Under a case known as Montgomery County vs. Sanders
, the court applies the following factors:
- Fitness of the parents
- Character and reputation of the parties
- Desire of the natural parents and agreements between the parties
- Potential of maintaining natural family relations
- Preference of the child (depending on the child’s age)
- Material opportunities affecting the future life of the child
- Age, health and sex of the child
- Residences of the parents and opportunity for visitation
- Length of Separation from the natural parents
- Prior voluntary abandonment or surrender
- Evidence of abuse against a party or the child
What factors does the court use when deciding to award either sole or shared or joint custody?
Under a case known as Taylor vs. Taylor
, the following factors are applied by the Court:
- The capacity of the parents to communicate and reach shared decisions affecting their child’s welfare
- The willingness of the parents to share custody
- The fitness of each parent
- The relationship that exists between the child and each parent
- Any reasonable preference of a child of suitable age and discretion
- Any potential disruption of the child’s social or school life
- The geographic proximity of the two parental incomes
- The work hours required by each parent’s employment
- The age and number of children
- The sincerity of the parent’s request for joint custody
- the financial status of the parents
- Any impact which joint custody may have on State or Federal Assistance
- Any benefits resulting to the parents as a result of joint custody
- Any other factors considered appropriate by the Court
Keep in mind that you can enter into any kind of arrangement that is in the child’s best interest and suits your family. Remember that you can be your own architect.
Examples are as follows:
- Split the School Year: the child lives with one parent during the school year and the summer with the other parent. Each parent has specific parenting time with the child while the child is living with the other parent.
- Alternate years: The child lives with one parent an entire year and the next year with the other parent
- Split year: Each parent provides the child’s primary residence for 6 months of the year and the other parent has visitation rights.
- Alternating Months: The child lives with one parent for a month and with the other parent for a month. The parent who does not provide the primary residence for the child has specific visitation rights.
- Alternating Weeks: The child lives with one parent for a week and with the other parent for a week. There is no provision for visitation under this plan since the child moves back and forth from week to week.
- Alternating Days (not recommended): The child changes residences nightly.
- Split week: One parent may have the child Saturday through Tuesday, then the other parent will have the child Wednesday through Saturday. Then the first parent will have the child Sunday through Wednesday and the other parent Thursday through Sunday. There is no provision for visitation under this plan since the child moves back and forth every few days.
- Bird’s nest: this child stays in the family home and the parents rotate. This is an excellent plan if the parties can afford it. Under other plans, the parents support 2 households. Under this plan, the parents support 3 households!
- Free Access: The child decides which home to stay in and can move back and forth at will. Will work for older children only. Also, this pattern plays havoc with child support calculations.