When parents divorce, sometimes they are able to reach a mutual agreement about who will have custody and each parent adheres to that agreement. Unfortunately, in many situations parents cannot agree.
In custody matters, the court will decide what is in the best interest of the child. It may decide that joint custody is appropriate, meaning that the parents share custody or that sole custody should be ordered, meaning that only one parent has custody.
There is helpful information that parents can present to the court. Parents should be able to speak to their living arrangements and how that supports a safe physical environment for the child, how they will maintain the child’s current routine, their plans for the child’s education and a willingness to cooperate with the other parent.
Courts generally believe that the child is best supported when he or she has a relationship with both parents, except where there is abuse, neglect or in other similar situations.
If one parent believes that sole custody is in the child’s best interest, it can be helpful to bring documentation to court. This may include evidence of the other parent’s inconsistencies with previous visits, concerns about the child’s well-being in the other parent’s care or observations about the child’s behavior after spending time with the other parent. Even if one parent is granted sole custody, the court may allow the other parent visitation rights.
The parent may also want to ask family members, neighbors, teachers or community members who know their strengths as a parent to be available to speak as a witness, if the court requests that information.
It can be emotionally difficult to navigate the child custody process. However, there is guidance and advice available to help parents.