In most cases, it is usually best for a divorcing family to determine among themselves what a fair custody arrangement looks like for them. Each instance of child custody has its own contributing factors, and no two situations are exactly the same. However, when a court gets involved with a custody agreement if the parents cannot create their fair own parenting plan, it will attempt to make a ruling based on what is in the child's best interest. This determination is not an exact science and can be affected by many factors.
In order to determine what is best for a child, the court will take many factors into consideration. Some of these are obvious, such as the elements that may harm the child. If there is evidence of abuse at the hands of one or the other parent, if a parent has a history of substance abuse or if one or the other parent suffers from mental illness, this is weighed heavily. Also of great importance are any special needs that the child may have and that one parent or the other may be better equipped to meet.
Other factors may be less obvious, like the child's ability to adapt to new environments in schools and communities, and how primary custody by one parent may affect the child's access to grandparents and other important relationships. There may be cultural or religious preferences that the child or the parents have that should be considered, or one or the other parent's access to important medical services. In addition to all these factors, if the child is considered sufficiently mature, his or her own wishes may also be considered in the ruling.
While this is not an exhaustive examination of every factor that may determine what a child's best interests may be, it covers most of what one can expect from the process. If you are entering into a custody negotiation, or if you are already involved in one, the representation of an experienced child custody attorney is always a wise addition to your team. An attorney with child custody experience can help ensure that your rights remain protected while fighting for the best future for the child at the heart of the negotiations.