In our previous post, we began speaking about the best interests of the child standard and some of the factors judges consider when making child custody and parenting time decisions in accordance with that standard. We've already mentioned a couple of those factors, but we'd like to highlight a couple more here.
Another factor judges are able to take into consideration when determining custody is the extent to which each party has demonstrated willingness to cooperate with their spouse in custody and visitation matters. A parent who is determined to gain sole custody and shows hostility to the other spouse's desire to have an ongoing relationship with his or her children may not be viewed favorably by the court, and this could impact the final outcome. There are good reasons for this. Not only do children normally do better when they have an ongoing relationship with each parent, but both parents will need to commit to cooperating with one another in any arrangement if it is to go smoothly for the child.
The wishes of the parents and the child or children are also taken into consideration, of course, though courts will normally give an appropriate degree of consideration to these wishes in relation to all other factors. What a child wants, to be sure, may not always be what is actually best for him or her, particularly if that child is young and hasn't yet developed discretion. And what the parents want may not always be what is best for the child. While judges should not be paternalistic in overriding the wishes of families, they do have broad discretion to reach a solution that they feel is best for the children involved.
State law does not assign any specific weight to the various factors judges may consider in determining child custody and parenting time. It is really up to judges to use their best judgment in every case. Parents, of course, should always try to work with an experienced attorney when pursuing these cases, to ensure that their rights and interests receive proper advocacy in court. Having a strong advocate can help influence the outcome of a custody case.
Source: Superior Court Superior Court, "Pre-Decree: Frequently Asked Questions," Accessed Dec. 23, 2014.