Judges usually award joint custody unless there is a reason not to. The courts consider several factors when determining the custody arrangement that is in the best interest of the child.
A judge may deny a parent who is unfit custody or visitation.
What makes a parent unfit?
The courts consider a variety of attributes when determining whether a parent is fit:
- Does the parent set age-appropriate limits? It is normal for parents to disagree about age-appropriate limits; however, a parent who engages in extreme behavior, such as allowing a young child to drink alcohol, may be unfit.
- How involved has the parent been with the child? It is not unusual for one parent to be more involved with a child’s daily activities than the other. However, if a parent has largely been absent from the child’s life or has demonstrated difficulty in caring for the child without assistance from other people, the court may not award that parent custody.
- Does the parent have a history of abusive behavior? Parents who have a history of abusive behavior towards their own or any other child are likely to be unfit. This is particularly true if the abuse has been recent and is well documented.
How do the courts substantiate parental behavior?
The judge may review documentation from Child Welfare Services, ask the child questions and consider testimony from teachers, physicians, childcare workers and others who may have relevant knowledge.
Normal parental disagreements about how to parent a child do not usually affect custody arrangements. However, extreme behavior that is not in the best interest of the child may.