The Most Important Factors Considered in a Child Custody Hearing

Child's Needs and Child's Adjustment to Home, School, and Religious Training

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In reaching a decision on child custody matters, a court will consider many factors to determine which parents should have primary custody of the child or to determine whether the parents should share custody of a child. Two of the factors that are highly considered by the court in determining child custody are the needs of the child and the child's adjustment to home, school, and religious activities.

Here is some information about factors used by the court to determine the relevancy of the child's needs and adjustment to home, school and religious activities during child custody proceeding:

Special Needs

A court will consider the special needs of a child when making a determination for who should get custody during a child custody proceeding. The court will consider the following during a special needs determination:

  • Child's medical needs
  • Child's need for special schooling
  • Child's need for specialized transportation devices
  • Child's need for special apparatus in the home

A court will give a lot of weight to a child's special needs in making decisions about child custody.

Medical Needs

A child may have special medical needs that may require extraordinary medical expenses. A court may consider which parent is best apt to handle a child will special medical needs. In determining the extraordinary medical needs of a child, a court will look to the following factors:

  • Frequency of the doctor's visits
  • Costs of healthcare needs
  • Child's ability to handle his/her medical conditions without the intervention of the parents
  • Child's need to be cared for on a regular basis

Age of the Child

In considering the child's needs, a court will also consider the age of the child, as children of different ages have very different needs.

In determining which parent is better suited to care for a child, a court will probably consider the age of the child in specific age groups such as:

  • Infants and toddlers
  • School-aged children
  • Teenagers

A court will certainly weigh the age of a child, as children of differing ages may be involved with extracurricular activities which are important for their future success. However, some courts will not consider the child's age at all as a factor in determining child custody.

Extracurricular Activities

Several children are involved with extracurricular activities that often take place on the weekends or after school. These activities may interfere with the child's ability to visit a non-custodial parent or remain in the same home as another parent. A court will consider this factor in determining the child's best interests and craft a visitation schedule that will work for all involved parties.

Friends

A court will consider the relationships the child has developed, especially, the child's circle of friends. Generally, as children age, their friendships become much more important to them, so in conjunction with a child's wishes, a court may consider a child custody arrangement that works for all involved parties that permit a child to maintain his/her friendships.

Commitment to Religious Upbringing

In determining the level of importance of religious upbringing a child's life, a court may consider:

  • Important religious ceremonies such as an upcoming baptism, bar/bat mitzvah. The court will consider the amount of preparation and commitment to a religious institution that needs to go into that religious training prior to the ceremony. If a court determines that religious instruction may be hindered by a specific child custody agreement, a court may either order a temporary child custody arrangement or structure an agreement that will allow the child to maintain religious ties.
  • Parents with differing religious views and/or ties to different religious institutions. Ultimately, if the parents agree to compromise on religious instruction, the court can rule on child custody without a consideration to the child's religious upbringing.

    Proposed Visitation Schedule

    In determining how much credibility to place on the child's level of adjustment and attachment to his/her social circle as well as accommodating a child's needs, a court will craft a visitation schedule to accommodate the child's scheduling conflicts and needs. An appropriate visitation schedule can be:

    • Alternate weekends
    • Summers
    • School Holidays/Vacation

    For more information about other factors used to determine child custody, refer to the child custody guidelines of your state or speak with a qualified attorney.