Divorce is a difficult process overall. Deciding that your marriage is over and taking proper steps to legally separate can be extremely emotionally taxing. Unfortunately, the most emotionally difficult aspect of many divorces is the determination of child custody. Most divorcing parents do not want to hurt their children, and similarly want to continue to spend time with them. This often leads to impassioned arguments and battles in court over how the child’s custody should be arranged.
There is a common misconception that a child’s mother has an advantage when it comes to custody agreements. This stems from a long history of gender roles and sexist practices. However, it can be difficult to move past this belief when you are fighting your child’s mother for custody.
The Courts Care About Well Being
It is important to understand what the courts are looking at when they determine how child custody should be divided. This will be the driving force behind your attorney’s case in your favor, and this understanding can help to ease your mind during the arguments and process.
The only priority that the court has in determining custody is the child’s well-being. Parental preference, arguments, or baggage do not go into this decision, unless they directly affect the child’s safety. The child is always the number one priority when it comes to custody.
Well-being is often broken down into several categories. There is no singular attribute, including the parent’s gender, that determines well-being. The court will consider the following categories.
Emotional and Physical Health of the Parent
The courts must consider if each parent is emotionally and physically able to care for the child on their own. When the family lived as a unit, both parents could work together to care for the kids. However, after a divorce, the parents will each need to be capable of providing care.
Unfortunately, handicaps and disabilities often get called into question during custody hearings. Though these qualities do not make one a lesser parent, the court tries to assess whether a parent in a wheelchair, for example, is able to care for a young child alone.
Emotional health is important too. If one parent has a history of severe depression, psychotic episodes, narcissism, addiction, or similar conditions, the court may decide that the child’s well-being would be better supported by the other parent.
Safety of the Children in the Home
The children’s safety is also of the utmost importance. This means that each parent who is seeking custody must have a safe space for the children to live when they are under their care. Proving that you have a secure home in a safe neighborhood will likely be paramount to a judge’s decision to grant custody.
This does not only apply to the physical structure of the house, but the inhabitants as well. You must be able to show that you do not bring people into the home who would jeopardize your child’s safety. For example, if you begin to date someone after your divorce who has a history of selling drugs to minors, your children will likely not be allowed to stay with you.
This is an extreme example, but it is important to understand how the people with whom you associate can affect your eligibility for custody.
The court may consider the finances of the parents as well, though this is not necessarily indicative of who will get custody. Child support is an option if there is a large discrepancy between parental incomes.
However, if one parent is often unemployed, the court may judge that that parent does not have the financial stability required for custody.
Time Allocated for Parenting
If one parent has an extremely hectic and demanding job, the court will be hesitant to grant custody. Parents who wish to have custody need to prove that they can be present and available for their kids, to a reasonable degree. This means home on most nights, available for school drop-off and pick-up if necessary, the ability to provide meals, etc.
The Emotional Needs of the Child
With all else being equal, the court begins to examine specific and unique needs that a child may have. Though, of course, every child needs love, support, patience, and guidance, some children need specific involvement from their parents. For example, if the child is in the LGBTQ+ community and one of their parents is as well, the court may ensure that the child has time with that parent for support.
Again, situations like these, along with child-parent connections, will be taken into account only if it is determined that the child will be physically and emotionally safe and cared for in both homes.
Gender Has No Place
As you can see, the above criteria do not take gender into account directly. None of these attributes can only be possessed by a mother or a father. Though traditional gender roles may give the advantage to one parent in certain situations, the modern world does not demand that those gender roles be present at all. It is just as likely for a mother to have a demanding job as a father, for example.
The stereotype of the nurturing mother is also fading away. Where courts used to argue that children need the emotional care of their mother figure, they now understand that fathers are just as capable of emotional care and support as mothers.
What’s more, LGBTQ+ families may not have both a mother and a father, and therefore cannot rely on gender at all when it comes to custody. The courts have become accustomed to taking gender out of the equation and looking at the facts.
Contact Stange Law Firm
Here at Stange Law Firm, we specialize in fighting your case for child custody. We know what the courts are looking for, and how to present your situation in a way that is both honest and appealing to the courts. Even if your ex’s lawyer tries to drag your reputation through the mud, we are here to defend with facts and perspectives that can neutralize the situation and give you the best chance at a custody agreement that works for you.
For more information, contact us online today.