What factors do the courts consider in granting custody?
Heidi Ann Lepp’s Answer:
Voluntary custody agreements between parents will be honored unless they are not in the best interests of the children, but the ultimate determination of custody lies with the Court whatever the agreement between the parents. Such authority is exercised after consideration of the testimony of the parties, custody experts if same have been retained and with input of the children depending on their ages. While there is no bright line rule that a court follows when deciding the issue of custody, there are a number of mandatory factors which a Court must consider. Some of these factors include: the parents’ ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the child; the parents’ willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time; the interaction and relationship of the child with its parents and siblings; the history of domestic violence; the preference of the child when of sufficient age; the needs of the child; the stability of the home environment offered; the quality and continuity of the child’s education; the fitness of the parents; the geographical proximity of the parents’ homes; the extent and quality of the time spent with the child prior to or subsequent to the separation; the parents’ employment responsibilities; and the age and number of the children. The Court must balance these factors using the “best interests of the children” standard.