How Courts Decide Custody Battles

Custody battles enter the courtroom every day all across this country, and family court judges are faced with the difficult decision: how should custody be decided? In some cases, they must give sole custody to either the mother or the father, and in others they must work out a mutually acceptable form of joint custody. Either way, custody battles in court are difficult on all parties involved.

So how do courts decide custody battles?

How Courts Decide Custody Battles: Parental Wishes

In some cases – and these are the easy ones – one parents wishes to have full custody, while the other wants only visitation rights. In others, the parents have already worked out a joint custody arrangement, and the judge doesn’t have to decide anything for them. For the most part, the courts will comply with the parents’ wishes concerning custody battles as long as those arrangements do not negatively affect the child in any way.

How Courts Decide Custody Battles: Child’s Wishes

If the child in question is older than eleven or twelve, the courts will often consult him or her in the custody decision. The judge will speak with the child in chambers, away from the prying eyes of the parents, and ask several questions about which parent he or she would prefer to live with. Although the decision will not be based solely on the child’s wishes, they are often a factor.

How Courts Decide Custody Battles: Living Situation

The courts will examine the financial records kept by both parents, and often a social worker will be sent to both homes to gauge the quality of life. Children are most often placed with the parent whose living conditions will best meet the needs of the child. For example, if the mother lives in a small apartment on the fifth floor of a building, custody might be placed with the father because he lives in a mid-size house.

How Courts Decide Custody Battles: Ability to Provide

Perhaps the most important factor in a custody battle is the ability of both parents to provide for their children. Shelter, food, clothing, school supplies and other things are essential for the development of a child, and if only one parent can provide those necessities, then custody will most likely be afforded to the other.

How Courts Decide Custody Battles: Community Ties

This is especially in reference to older children who have already made friends at school and begun to participate in community events. For example, if two parents are living in different school districts, and the 7th grade child has already been chosen for the football team in one of those districts, this can be a deciding factor in primary custody.

How Courts Decide Custody Battles: Lifestyle

Poor lifestyle habits can also be a contributing factor. Parents who smoke, have used drugs in the past, drink alcohol on a regular basis, or have prior arrests for poor lifestyle choices may stand to lose custody to their ex-spouse.

Obviously, all of these factors are taken into consideration, along with the quality of available schools, the mental and physical health of each parent, and the ability of one parent to foster healthy communication between the child and the other parent. If you are concerned about an upcoming custody battle, visit for links to informative sites that can help you in the court proceedings to come.

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