Will my Children have a say in who gets Custody?
No matter how much you or your partner want either of you to get custody of your child, the ultimate decision is not yours to make — but the court’s. The judge will take a look at all the facts, including how equipped you or your ex are to take care of your child, where they will live, the environment where they will grow up, etc.
But the courts do not have arbitrary discretion to decide on who is granted custody. They follow a specific set of guidelines and take into consideration one crucial requisite: it should be in the child’s best interest.
The Best Interest Factors
In determining what’s in the child’s best interest, the courts refer to Statute 14-10-124, which lays down the following best interest factors:
- The wishes of the child, if he or she is mature enough and capable of expressing a reasonable preference.
- The mental and physical health of the parents
- The child’s special needs and how each parent addresses those needs
- Religious or cultural considerations
- The need for a stable and healthy home environment
- Support and interaction with extended family members
- Relationships with other members of the household
- School and community
- The age and sex of the child
- Evidence of domestic violence in the home
- Evidence of excessive discipline or emotional abuse by the parents
- Evidence of drug, alcohol, or child/sex abuse.
The court takes a look at all these factors and takes them into serious consideration to determine who should get physical and/or legal custody of the child.
The Wishes of the Child
You, of course, saw that one of the factors was the wishes of the child. The court will put weight into who the child wants to live with, but will have to determine if he or she is mature enough to make that decision. Your child must display adequate maturity and the capability to make a reasonable preference.
Ultimately, your child will have a say. But there is no guarantee that the court will automatically grant custody to whoever the child wants to live with. They have to consider the other best interest factors as well to finalize their decision on child custody matters.