Parents don’t always stay together until the children that they share become adults. Unmarried parents break up, and married couples get divorced. Typically, these couples will then have to share custody following their divorce.
Parents who decide to separate have the option of working together to create their own parenting plan. If they can’t agree on how to divide parental rights and responsibilities with one another, then they need to go to court for custody litigation.
If a North Dakota family law judge has to make custody decisions, then the law requires that they focus their decisions on what will be in the best interests of the children. What factors influence how a judge divides custody?
The stability of each parent
Parenting is a demanding job that requires more than just full-time commitment. A parent has to provide everything from shelter and clothing to homework support to the kids. A judge will often give preferential consideration to a parent who displays personal stability.
Having a stable place to live, an established profession and no significant medical issues or personal problems like addiction all improve a parent’s chances of the courts viewing them favorably.
The current relationships of the parents with the kids
Stability is important, but sometimes the parent who takes care of the children has had to sacrifice their own advancement to do so. The judge will also look at who has provided most of the care for the children and how each parent has bonded with the children.
Especially when the children are young, preserving their attachment to the primary caregiver will be a consideration, although it will not be a strong enough concern to prevent the other parent from receiving shared parenting time.
The preferences of the children
If the judge hearing their case determines that one or more of your children is sufficiently mature, they may consider the child’s opinion on custody matters. Although not even a teenager has the right to demand that they live solely at one parent’s house, strong preferences will influence what a judge ultimately chooses.
Understanding what influences child custody decisions can help you prepare for your next court hearing.