Child custody laws assume that the child’s interests outweigh those of the parents, and they assume that the child’s interests are served when the child has a relationship with each parent. In legal terms, child custody is a parent’s right to make decisions such as those concerning religious upbringing, medical care, and consent to enlist in the military. Any decision a parent has the capacity to make rests with the custodial parent.
Factors in the Determination of Child Custody
The courts consider multiple factors that are relevant to parental fitness when making custody determinations with the help of a family law attorney in Cranston, RI. Divorce courts have significant discretion in deciding custody issues, and factors can include:
* The parents’ wishes. If parents cannot reach an agreement, the child’s wishes are given substantial weight.
* Which parent has served as the primary caretaker.
* The child’s overall adjustment in their current community, school, and home.
* The mental and physical health of both parents.
* The child’s preferences if they’re over a certain age.
After the courts have considered the above factors, they often consider which parent provides the most stable environment, with the primary caretaker receiving custody in most cases. In cases involving older children, the parent who can offer a better upbringing receives custody.
Factors Unusable by the Courts
Although family court judges have considerable leeway when assessing custody, some factors cannot be considered. They include:
* Gender – In the past, the mother usually got custody because she was the primary caretaker. However, today’s courts consider both parents equally based on the above factors.
* Religion – Courts cannot use religion in determining child custody, unless specific practices are harmful to the child.
* Race – Courts cannot deny custody based on parental race, or the race of a parent’s new companion.
* Parental disability – A parent’s disability cannot be used to prevent them from having custody, unless it prevents them from providing adequate support.
Bias Against Fathers in Child Custody
In the past, the courts typically awarded the mother primary custody, but recently the practice has been eliminated and they focus on multiple factors. Custody decisions are based on the interests of the child, and upon which parent can provide the better living environment.
Parents involved in child custody cases should contact us to consult a family law attorney in Cranston, RI for help and advice.