When divorcing parties cannot agree on child custody arrangements, most states have laws that establish factors the judge must consider when determining custody. A few states do not have any factors in their laws, and leave it up to judges to determine custody with guidance from decisions of the state appellate courts. These appellate court decisions usually end up discussing the same factors that are found in the laws of the other states.
All of these state laws and court decisions can be traced back to the concept that a custody decision should be based upon what is in the best interest of the child. The factors used by courts are simply means for a judge to determine the parents who can provide the best possible primary home for the child.
In making a decision, judges often take into consideration:
1) which parent is more likely to allow the other to visit with the child;
2) the love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the child and the parent;
3) the ability and willingness of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, and other material needs;
4) the length of time the child has lived with either parent in a stable environment;
5) the permanence, as a family unit, of the proposed custodial home;
6) the moral fitness of each parent;
7) the mental and physical health of each parent;
8) the home, school, and community record of the child;
9) the preference of the child, providing the child is of sufficient intelligence and understanding; and,
10) any other factor the judge decides is relevant.
Looking out for the best interest of your child while going through a divorce
The courts consider the best interest of your child as the primary factor in determining a child custody case. Both the parents will have to present strong cases. The court will have to analyze these cases before granting the child custody. The factors that contribute to the best interests of the children are:
Age and health of the kids
The court takes into consideration the age and the health of the children when granting child custody.
Bond the kids share with the parents
If the children are closer to one parent than the other, the court might consider the decision of the child. But again, this decision also depends upon the age of the child. In Georgia, a child of age 14 and above can have his or her say in this matter.
The time spent by parents with the kids
If the child has been taken care of by one parent more than the other, that parent would be given more importance in the court’s decision.
If one of the parents has a history of domestic violence or substance abuse, a criminal record, or cannot provide a safe and healthy environment, the court will likely award custody to the other parent.
Employment and income of the parents
If one of the parents does not have stable job, then the case might work in the favor of the one who has. Another consideration is the income of the parents. The parent who is earning more and is capable of taking care of the children would be given an edge over the other.
If your child has special needs, parents’ ability to meet those needs will also be taken into account. Special needs involve both the gifted child who has special educational needs, as well as the child with cognitive, physical, or emotional disabilities.
Determining custody arrangements for these cases will probably involve expert testimony to verify the child’s condition and needs. The parents’ lawyers must show which parent is best able to meet those needs. This does not refer to the the financial ability to meet the needs. Child support will ensure that the financial needs are met. If, for example, the child needs daily in-home physical therapy, the judge may grant custody to the parent who works fewer hours and can be present for treatments.
Ultimately, the parent who is capable of providing the best home for the children will be the one who has a stronger case. This includes better facilities in terms of education, food and home. This is what constitutes the best interests of the kids in the eyes of the law.
How does a judge determine child support?
Here are some of the models used to calculate the payments non-custodian parents have to pay for their child’s needs:
- Income shares model: With the this model, the obligation is based on a certain percentage of the income of both parents. This percentage varies based on different states and the special circumstances in each child’s case. However, the amount of support paid by both parents may also require comparison of the parents’ income in relation to each other. If one earns more than the other, then the former would have to pay more for child support.
- Percentage of income: This model shows the amount of support for the child’s needs to be paid as a certain percentage of the income of the non-custodial parent. This income percentage is set by the court. The dollar amount may change based on the financial situation of the non-custodial parent. There is no set amount of money to be paid by the custodian parent as it is assumed that this party is already providing enough for the child.
- Melson formula: The Melson formula is a more complex version of the Income Shares model. However, it also considers the self-support needs of both parents and the support needs of the child. It also considers the standard of living adjustment. This means that parents with an improved source of income need to share more for the child’s needs. Both parents’ income has to be determined after getting their joint net income
The right attorney makes all the difference.
Child custody cases can be complex. To truly have a clear understanding of the factors that a judge will consider when determining child custody, you should consult a family law attorney. The lawyers at Hall & Navarro are here to help you achieve the best conclusion for your family.
Our team of Family Law attorneys, understand the challenges involved in child custody cases. We have provided excellent counsel for families in Divorce and Child Custody cases in Southeast Georgia for nearly 25 years. Martha Hall and her team are passionate about helping families faced with complex family law issues.
Since receiving her Juris Doctorate in Law from The University of Memphis in 1994, she has focused on Family Law. She concentrates on serving her clients in the areas of Divorce, Child Custody Issues, Child Support Issues, Adoption, Mediation, and Legitimation.
Hall & Navarro has two South Georgia offices to serve you. We serve the areas of Springfield, GA and Statesboro, GA. The attorneys at Hall & Navarro provide focused and experienced representation. We will work for you from your initial consultation until the resolution of your legal matter. We are dedicated to serving individuals and businesses and offer a broad range of legal services.
Visit our child custody page for more information and to contact us. It is easy to schedule your confidential consultation.