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Child Custody Laws and Decisions

Eric Gehler
 


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In cases where a child is forced to live in the absence of a parent or guardian, emotions often make the process of determining custody challenging. Child custody laws vary state by state and attempt to protect each child's interests. But, determining custody rights can be difficult. Parents may be embroiled in a bitter divorce and resort to pursuing custody of shared children out of spite. Other times, the parents of the child may not be married or someone who is not the child's parent seeks custody. Below, you'll discover how each of these circumstances can impact the courts’ decisions about custodial rights.

In The Case Of Divorce

In many divorce cases, the spouses are able to agree to custody and visitation rights with the help of their lawyers. This typically happens as a result of negotiation and can often require the help of an experienced legal mediator. If the spouses cannot agree on a custody settlement, a family court judge will become involved. The judge's primary goal is to ensure that any decision regarding custody and visitation encourages the healthy growth and development of the child.

When Parents Are Unmarried

In the event that a child's parents are unmarried, custody rights are typically given to the child's mother. If the mother can prove that she is capable of being a good parent, the child's father is normally precluded from winning full custody. That being said, the father can challenge the mother's sole custody and gain partial custody rights as well as visitation privileges.

When A Non-Parent Is Involved

Often, parties other than the child's mother or father will seek custody. In some cases, these non-parents will feel that neither of the child's parents is capable of providing a stable environment that fulfills the best interests of the child. In these cases, a petition is submitted that details the non-parent's relationship with the child, specific reasons why non-parental custody should be awarded and where the child's parents are.

Legal Protection Of The Child's Best Interests

When the issue of custodial rights for children are handled by the courts, each decision is made with a focus on protecting the children's best interests. That includes determining the environment in which the child has the best chance of developing physically, mentally and emotionally. While the courts try to find a way in which every child can maintain a healthy relationship with both parents, it's not always possible. Sometimes, one (or both) of the parents have little motivation to care for the child. Other times, 1 parent may want to avoid financial or emotional responsibility.

Evidence shows that the decisions made regarding custody rights have long-lasting effects on the development of the child. Because of this, each decision is approached carefully and thoughtfully while considering a variety of factors. Child custody cases are rarely easy, but often necessary.

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