When a couple gets divorced, they may be able to create a parenting agreement on their own. The court still has to approve it, but both parents can agree on how they should make decisions and how to split up parenting time.
That said, there are certainly many cases where couples will disagree. Perhaps they both want sole custody or they just need the court to make a ruling regarding how they should divide up their parenting time. They cannot do it alone, so the court will do it for them. As a general rule, courts try to focus on the child’s best interests, but what does this mean?
A few key examples
To determine what is in a “child’s best interests” in any specific case, the court has to look at a variety of different factors. These could include the following:
- The parental roles before the divorce
- The roles of extended family members
- Where the child goes to school
- If they are involved in any extracurricular activities
- The child’s own gender and age
- The child’s mental and physical health
- The mental and physical health of the parents, as it pertains to how well they can care for that child
- The financial situation for the parents
- Each parent’s living arrangement and stability
- The child’s own preferences
These factors may apply differently from one case to the next. For instance, older children are often asked about their preferences, while young children – like toddlers – may not be.
But no matter how it plays out specifically, it’s important to consider what the court is trying to accomplish when making a ruling. Parents who are involved in this process must understand all of their legal options.