Before understanding how child custody is decided, it is important to know the types of child custody there are.
Types of custody include the following:
- Legal Custody
- Sole Custody
- Physical Custody
- Joint Custody
Legal custody means a parent has the right to make decisions on the how to bring up the child In sole custody, the legal and physical custody goes to one parent. Physical custody means a parent has the right to have the child live with him or her. Lastly, joint custody establishes that both parents share legal and physical custody of a child.
A judge looks at each case and awards child custody to whomever he or she thinks would be in the best interest of the children. The factors that determine the judge’s decision are the age of the child or children, gender, what the current living situation is, any health factors and the relationship with each parent.
But even before a judge hears the case, child custody can be agreed mutually before hand, either by an agreement made by the parents, or by going through mediation and drafting up a formal agreement. A licensed mediator is a third party that helps couples resolve most of the issues before it moves further ahead in the court system.
If, however, the parties do not come to a decision about child custody and visitation rights, the court will more than likely order a formal evaluation on the case, which involves psychological assessments and an in-depth interview process of everyone involved in the child’s immediate family. The interviewer is likely to be a licensed board psychologist because of the involvement of using psychological testing in the evaluations.
The judge might even consider taking testimony from older siblings or teenagers to find out which parent they would prefer to stay with and have custody. In any case, placing the child in the most stable environment is what takes priority to help maintain the child’s routine and lifestyle. This is why approximately 67 percent of the children of divorce tend to stay in the marital home.