Nothing is more important during a child custody case than the child's own needs. They have to come ahead of either parent's desires. If not addressed properly, divorce can have a huge impact on a child's future and his or her emotional well-being. If you're going through a custody case, there are five critical things you must remember.
The child's connection to other family members will be protected
The goal of the court is to keep the family together as much as possible. That means ideally finding a situation where both parents can be involved, but it also means keeping other bonds as strong as possible. This can be done by refusing to split up siblings, for example, so they don't lose that all-important relationship just to make life easier on the parents.
Any special needs the child has must be met
Some children require very specialized care due to physical or mental difficulties or medical conditions that they suffer from. These extra needs have to be met, and the parenting plan has to ensure that the parent who gets custody can provide the necessary care.
The home has to be safe
Home inspections may be carried out to determine whether or not the home is safe living space for the child. Things that could factor into the decision include firearms that are not stored in a safe manner, for example, or apparent illegal activity within the home. The court will also consider any allegations of child abuse and domestic violence.
Children must have food, shelter and clothing
At the most basic level, children have to be provided with the essentials. If a parent doesn't have adequate living space or appears unable to provide proper food and clothing, that parent may not be given custody. The court has to make sure that the child is given a home life that is as healthy as possible.
This can become an issue when one spouse has an income and the other does not, though this doesn't mean the parent without employment won't get custody. Child support arrangements were created to deal with these situations and make sure that the child always has the money that he or she needs, regardless of the parent's employment situation.
The child's wishes
If children are old enough, they may be asked to express their wishes to the court. While the court would not put the child in a problematic situation because the child asks for it, the court does work to give the child a voice and takes his or her desires into account. However, it's important that children are allowed to speak for themselves, not told what to say by their parents.
As the custody case begins, it's imperative that parents understand that children have rights, too, and the court is going to respect these rights. Parents need to know how these factors will influence the outcome of the case and what steps they can take to seek the result that is best for the child and best for them.