When the court constructs a custody arrangement, and in deciding the specific details of the custody of the child/children, there are some relevant factors, and a few, highly important, considerations. The court, in deciding the custody of the child, must consider not only the current relationship the parent has with the child, but also the history that the child has with the parent, the parent’s own history and background, and an attention to how the child’s life will be affected by the custody decision.
One factor considered by the court is the age of the child, as the needs of a young toddler, for instance, are far different than that of a 12-year-old. Moreover, it is a commonly held belief that during the early, or “tender”, years of the child’s life, it is very important that they are in contact with their mother, and therefore courts rarely tend to separate them within the custody decision. That being said, a younger child arguably creates more financial responsibilities than a young adult, as a 17-year-old can get a job (making income), and relatively take care of themselves. In addition, if a child is of a certain age, a court may seriously take into consideration the child’s personal preference on which parent they want to live with.
The parent’s individual living situation also has an impact on the court’s decision. For instance, a parent with no job, an unsanitary home, and a residence that is far from the child’s school/central area of their life, the court is often very reluctant to grant substantial custody. The proximity of one parent’s domicile to another can also determine the parenting schedule, as the burden of travel is placed on the child, and the court’s main objective is to make decisions that they deem are in the best interest of the child.
This ultimate goal of the court, to protect the life and interests of the child, will often result in an attempt to keep the child’s life as unchanged as possible. The house they grew up in (if one of the parents still live there), the locality of their upbringing, all of these elements create a feeling of continuity and familiarity, which the court finds to be key in the child’s happiness. And so, the court, if possible, will try to limit the disruption to the child’s life, in an attempt to shield them from the impacts of the case.