If you live in Idaho and you're facing a breakup with minor children involved, it can be helpful to know what to expect from the law and the court. The same applies if you and your ex parted ways long ago but changing circumstances in your lives require that custody be revisited. One of you may be in a new marriage or planning to move away, or maybe you want a bigger role in your child's life.
In all cases, Idaho courts primarily determine custody based on the best interests of the child.
But how does this affect the decisions made in family court regarding both new custody orders and modifying old ones due to changed circumstances?
The Best Interests of the Child
The best interests doctrine is a list of factors that judges must consider when deciding issues of custody. In Idaho, these factors include the wishes of the child, the wishes of each parent, and the child's relationship with each parent and with his siblings. They include his adjustment to and connections with his home, school, and community. The moral character of both parents and their fitness to be the child's primary provider is considered, as is each parent's circumstances, including their work hours and housing. The court will weigh each parent's ability to meet the child's needs and to provide stability in the child's life.
An Idaho court might award joint physical custody, joint legal custody or both based on what the court believes is in the best interests of the child.
Physical custody relates to which parent the child lives with, while legal custody involves making major decisions on behalf of the child.
Idaho courts begin custody proceedings with an evaluation as to whether a joint custody arrangement is workable based in part on an estimation of parents' abilities to work together.
Parents are free to devise their own joint parenting plan and submit it to the court for approval. Incidents of domestic violence in the family can be a strong deterrent to joint custody, but the court's goal is to keep both parents as actively involved in their child's life as possible.
If the court doesn't award joint custody, the judge will explain why he has reached this decision.
How a Parent's Disability Affects Custody Cases
A disabled parent will always be provided an opportunity to explain how equipment or other services will assist her in providing and caring for her child.
Custody modifications are generally approved by the court when parents jointly request them, provided the change appears to be in the child's best interests. When parents don't agree, the burden of proof falls to the parent requesting the change to establish why it's in the child's best interests. The judge will typically want to know what's changed to warrant a modification and to ensure that any trauma or upheaval the change might cause the child will be justified because his life will significantly improve.
For more information child custody in Idaho, speak with a qualified attorney in the state or refer to the Idaho Code.