Last week we discussed a case to be heard by the United States Supreme Court in April, which could help shape how child custody matters involving Native American children are resolved in the past. The case involves a federal law that affects only cases in which one or both parents is Native American.

Most other child custody disputes are not covered by the Indian Child Welfare Act, and courts are less limited in how they can award child custody and visitation. Many judges use a number of factors to determine what custody and parenting time arrangement serves the “best interests of the child.”

That can be difficult to nail down since all families are unique but they generally weigh a number of factors. Including:

  • each parent’s wishes
  • the child’s wishes
  • the child’s relationship with each parent
  • how the child will adjust to the arrangement, including its effects on school
  • the mental and physical health of all people involved

In choosing whether to award joint custody, judges will also consider the physical proximity of each parent, their ability or inability to cooperate and make decisions and whether such a determination will encourage more frequent contact between the child and each parent.

Matters of child custody and visitation can be some of the mostly hotly contested issues in a divorce or, in this case, separation by unmarried parents. Virtually all parents want what is best for their children and it can be heart-breaking to see your children live with another family.

If you are going through a divorce or are otherwise engaged in a dispute over the custody, parenting time or visitation of your children it is important not to try to settle the matter by yourself. Attempts to retaliate against the other parent can come back to haunt you, particularly when there is a court-ordered custody agreement already in place.

Source: Yahoo! News, “The Supreme Court’s upcoming child-custody decision: The Baby Veronica case,” Abigail Perkiss, March 4, 2013