Are you worried about how your child custody dispute is going to play out in your divorce? If so, you’re certainly not alone. This is a common concern among those looking to dissolve their marriage. But one way to alleviate the stress of the situation is to simply prepare yourself for the process ahead. While this could mean negotiations, it could also include litigation. Regardless, you should know how you’re going to address your child’s best interests and make arguments that demonstrate that your proposed custody arrangement best furthers those interests.
New York’s best interests determination
As you head into negotiations, you need to be thinking about how a judge will view your case. After all, that’s who is going to make your child custody determination if you and your spouse can’t hash out an agreement. When a court addresses a best interests determination, it looks to a number of factors. Amongst those factors is each of the following:
- Which home provides the most stability: Here, you’ll want to think about how your child’s life will change if he or she changes households and how to argue your position in light of those concerns. Think about your child’s schooling, connection with friends, community ties, and access to extracurricular activities as well as how you’ll support each of those with your proposed custody arrangement.
- Each parent’s physical and mental health: Raising a child is hard work. It requires dedication, attention, and care. Those who have improperly treated mental health issues may be unable to provide a child with a house that suits the child’s best interests. Also, the physical limits of a parent can be drawn into question here but remember to keep all arguments focused on your child and his or her best interests.
- Which parent was the primary caregiver: In some custody cases, the court defers to the parent who provided the child with the most care during the parents’ marriage because that parent may be more bonded to the child and provide more stability. Consider whether that’s true in your case.
- Substance abuse: Any evidence of substance abuse can be powerful in a custody case. So, make sure that you’re pulling police reports and talking to witnesses who can speak to this issue. If you’ve had a substance abuse issue in the past, then you need evidence to show that that chapter of your life is behind you.
- Domestic violence: A perpetrator of domestic violence is less likely to obtain the custody arrangement that he or she seeks, so this history can play a significant role in your case.
- History of abuse or neglect: The same holds true for evidence of prior child abuse or neglect.
- Financial health: Each parent’s financial standing can come into play, too, especially if the child has extensive needs or if one parent is struggling to keep himself or herself afloat.
- The child’s wishes: If the child is old enough, then his or her preference for custody can be a major determining factor for the court. These can be difficult decisions for a child to make, though, especially when they’re upset by the divorce process altogether. That’s why you may want to consider seeking out counseling for your child.
Keep in mind that these are just some of the factors that could come into play in your case. The truth of the matter is that the court is free to consider any factor that it thinks is relevant to its determination. That’s why it’s imperative that you know how to build the compelling legal arguments that you need on your side. Fortunately, that’s not a process that you have to face alone. Instead, you can work closely with an experienced divorce law firm that can help you appropriately assess your case and build the persuasive case that you and your child deserve.