To decide child custody cases, family law judges use a legal standard called “the best interests of the child.” These guidelines try to keep the children's lives stable and connected with both parents, if possible.
Here are the factors that courts commonly consider:
- a child’s age, health, and social requirements and and how well each parent can meet the child’s needs
- a child’s current living situation and how well the status quo is working for the child
- a child’s relationships with other significant people in each parent’s life
- a child’s wishes, if the child is old enough to understand and take part in the decision
- whether one parent is likely to do more to support a child’s relationship with the other parent, and
- whether there is any history of domestic violence, physical abuse, substance abuse, or neglect.
To check these factors, judges collect information from many sources, including the parents, reliable witnesses who are familiar with the child’s life, and any mediators, mental health professionals, or social workers assigned to help with the custody evaluation. To learn more, select your state from the list below.
You may also be interested in:
Know the basics of how to get custody of a child in your state, from the best interests of the child to child custody mediation and going to family court.
Know how joint physical custody and joint legal custody work in State so you can create the best parenting plan for your family.
Answers to common questions about State custody enforcement, including whether police will enforce a custody order.