Though states usually differ in some of the factors they consider in the determining who between the parents gets custody of the child, there is one constant principle that serves as a guide in every decision making: the child’s best interest.
What actually may be considered as falling within the scope of “best interest of the child,” can definitely be contested; however, the following have been deemed necessary to be included in the determining factors:
- The amount of involvement each parent has in the child’s activities;
- The level of relationship the child has with each of his/her parents;
- A parent’s lifestyle, stability, and health which can affect a child’s academic performance;
- The child’s age and gender; and/or,
- The health risks and safety of the environment where the parents live.
Child custody is one of the most sensitive divorce-related issues, not only because it concerns the future of another person, but also because many spouses never get to agree on the issue, necessitating a court proceeding wherein the family judge will have to be the one to decide on the matter.
After determining who gets custody of the child/children, it is implied that the other parent, the non-custodial one, will have settle for visitation rights in order to be with his/her child (many courts, however, now consider awarding custody of the child to both parents, especially if this decision will be in the child’s best interest). Both custodial and non-custodial parents are expected by the court to abide by and respect all court decisions pertaining to the future of the child; all court decisions shall be binding unless these are changed by the court itself due to a petition from either of the parents.
Any of the parents may request for change or modification in custody decisions; however, this would only be honored by the court if the petitioning parent can prove (without doubt) that current situations indeed necessitate a change in the court’s original decision.
Some of the more specific reasons why an original custody decision or visitation rights may be modified by the court, include:
- Frustration of the non-custodial parent’s visitation rights;
- Estrangement of the child’s affections from the non-custodial parent;
- Change of residence without informing the non-custodial parent;
- Material and substantial changes in the life of the custodial parent (such as his/her remarriage);
- Child’s preference;
- Unfavorable environment;
- Relinquishment of custody; and,
- Death of custodial parent
As pointed out by a Manhattan Beach child custody lawyer, any parent will naturally do everything for the sake of his/her child, even if it means keeping the child away from his/her other parent, especially if such parent can be proven as unfit. This may not be an easy task though, as it will require legally acceptable and convincing arguments to make the family court judge recognize and accept any new evidences. In this endeavor, a highly-competent child custody lawyer could be one of the best persons who may be able to help convince the judge to modify early decisions arrived at.