Of all the questions we are asked, this is the one that is perhaps most important to our clients. During the divorce process, both Mom and Dad are always particularly concerned about the custody arrangements with their children. One of the first questions our clients want to know is how will the court decide who gets custody of our children.
Child custody determinations are very fact specific; each case is decided on its own unique facts. They also involve very highly emotional issues, as both parents are frequently extremely committed to their children. It is also an issue which is difficult to compromise, as each parent often feels that their position is the best one for the children. The standard the court applies is, on its face, quite simple. It decides who has custody by determining “what is in the child’s best interest.” While that standard is simple, its application is quite difficult. Each custody determination is made based on the unique facts of each case.
There are many factors which cases have considered in determining what is in the child’s best interest, including the fitness of the parents; the character and reputation of the parties; the requests of each parent and their sincerity; any agreements between the parties; the willingness of the parents to share custody; each parent’s ability to maintain the child’s relationship with the other parent, siblings and relatives; the age and number of children each parent has in the household; the preference of the child, when the child is of sufficient age and capacity to form a rational judgment; the capacity of the parents to communicate and reach shared decisions for the children; the geographic proximity of the parents’ residences and opportunities for time with each parent; the ability of each parent to maintain a stable and appropriate home; the financial status of the parents; the demands of the parents’ employment and the parents’ opportunities for time with the child; the relationship established between the child and the parent; the age, health and sex of the child; the potential disruption of the child’s social and school life; and any other consideration the court determines is relevant.
That is quite a laundry list! As can be seen, the court will look at any relevant factor in determining what is best for the children. The court is not concerned with what the mother or father wants, but only how to best provide a stable home for the children.
There are certain facts which the court generally does not consider. For example, adultery by one of the parents is generally not a consideration unless it is shown to have had a detrimental effect on a minor child. Also, by statute, neither parent is given any preference solely because of his or her gender; there is not a preference under the law for mothers as custodians for the minor child.
A contested custody case is one of the most difficult for the parties, the court and for counsel. It is of course always better when the parties are able to resolve these issues between themselves in a cooperative fashion. However, if the court’s determination of custody is necessary, counsel is certainly needed to present the base case for the parent. Of course, we strongly encourage our clients to not involve their children in the custody dispute, and to be respectful of the other parent’s role with the child.
Call the law offices of Huesman, Jones and Miles, LLC to speak with a divorce attorney who can provide knowledgeable insight into your child custody matter. Our Baltimore County divorce lawyers have handled countless complex child custody cases and will guide you through negotiations and trial if necessary. Call our Hunt Valley law offices at 443.589.0150 or contact us online. We represent clients throughout Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County and Howard County, including the areas of Baltimore, Towson, Essex, Columbia and Bel Air.