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How are decisions related to child custody made?

For any parent, divorce presents many questions and concerns about the wellbeing and living arrangements of a shared child. Even in cases where divorcing parents are on good terms, matters related to child custody are highly emotional and stressful. Parents ultimately want what's best for their child and also want to protect a child from experiencing unnecessary pain and heartache.

For divorcing parents, it's important to understand how child custody decisions are made as well as steps a parent can take to influence the process. In most divorces, it's best when parents can come to a consensus about what's best for their child. When possible, a child can benefit from the support and involvement of both parents in a joint-custody arrangement that outlines when each parent will have physical custody of a child.

When parents aren't able to agree about child custody matters, a family court must get involved. When attempting to make determinations with regard to child custody and visitation, the court will evaluate and consider several factors. The overarching principle by which the court makes child custody decisions is based upon what is perceived to be in a child's best interests.

Things including a child's age, sex, parental preference, health and academics may all factor into a court's ultimate decision. Additionally, the court will want to know with which parent a child is currently living and how a change to a current custody agreement could potentially positively or negatively impact a child socially, emotionally and academically.

It's important to note that child custody agreements are not set in stone and may be modified to account for changes in a parent's living situation or health as well as to meet the changing needs of an aging child. An attorney who handles child custody matters can answer questions and provide legal advice and counsel for divorcing parents as well as for those who were never married.

Source: FindLaw.com, "Custody Considerations: Step-By-Step," 2014

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