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Divorce can be a messy business and it becomes especially complicated when children are involved. A contested custody battle places stress on both parents, and unfortunately, can have a harmful impact on children caught in the cross-hairs of parental disagreements. One of the most common concerns involving custody matters is what to do when an ex-husband or soon-to-be ex threatens to fight for custody. There are a few factors to consider during any legal scenario involving child custody, as well as some tips that can insure the most reasonable outcomes for all parties involved.
Promoting the Best Interests of the Children
If a parent is concerned about the outcome of their child’s placement, they needn’t look much further than their state’s legal definition of what is in the child’s best interests. The court determines which parent should have primary custody of a child based on a codified set of best interest factors, which includes details concerning the child’s welfare and stability. A family court judge will consider which parent the child currently resides with, as well as how long the child has been living at the home. Stability is a crucial factor in child custody matters, and the judge will strive to maintain the status quo so long as the child has been living in a healthful, nurturing residence. Courts are not fond of uprooting children and casting them into unfamiliar environments. The only exception is if there exists some circumstance that would be to the child’s detriment should they remain at their current placement.
Courts strive to preserve the relationship between the child and the primary caregiver. One needn’t worry about losing custody of their child without a difficult, contested battle as long as they have remained the child’s main caretaker and have provided a nurturing, financially stable, and healthful environment for the child to live in.
Other best interest factors might include how the child has been doing in school and whether or not their educational needs are being met, the parent’s ability and willingness to provide for basic health and medical needs, and the parent’s ability to give material and financial support to the child. Custody might be changed to the non-primary caretaker if it is found that the parent is not adequately providing for a child’s material or medical needs, not facilitating a relationship between the child and the other parent, not exhibiting good moral character or fitness and subjecting the children to immoral acts or behaviors, or is incapacitated due to mental or physical health impairments. Abuse, violence, and drug use in the home of the child, whether perpetrated by the primary caretaker or another resident of the home, could also constitute a change in custody.
Why Does He Want Custody?
Considering the aforementioned best interest factors, the first step in resolving a potential custody battle before it becomes a nightmare is to find out why he wants custody in the first place. Speaking with an ex and hearing out his side of the story might lead one to discover that there are underlying concerns about visitation or fears that the children are not being adequately cared for. Addressing his concerns while assuring him that visitation with the children will be facilitated fairly is an ideal disagreement resolution tactic, but this is not always doable when tensions are high. If he’s drawing a line in the sand by threatening to sue for custody, it would be wise to retain an attorney and suggest mediation.
It is advisable that all parties retain legal counsel during a divorce to help the process go as smoothly as possible, whether there are children involved or not. The right family attorney can advocate for parental rights while smoothing relations with an ex and suggesting mutually-agreeable custody solutions before anyone ever steps foot in a courtroom. If the ex’s issue is feeling that he is not receiving enough visitation with his children, a parenting plan that best divides time between both parents can be worked out and put into place. Judges frown upon a parent withholding child visitation from the other parent. The court recognizes that it is healthy and crucial for both parents to have fair and reasonable access to the child after a divorce. For a pain-free, wallet-friendly resolution to a custody dispute with the ex, agreeing to ample visitation and shared parenting time might be in the cards.
If the other parent will not budge on his decision to pursue custody in court, it might be time to examine his motives. Are finances or unwillingness to pay child support a factor, or is he acting maliciously? As mentioned, a judge will not look favorably on a parent that attempts to undermine another. Judges prefer that both parents have access to the child, as this is in the child’s best interest. Is there any reason that the other parent should suspect that the current custody situation is not in the child’s best interests? Any parent suffering from drug addiction or not able or willing to provide a stable home environment for the child would be wise to resolve these and any other obstacles that might prevent them from retaining custody of their child. Otherwise, even if a trial with the other parent is inevitable, the right family attorney can help navigate a contested custody battle to insure the best possible outcome for the entire family.
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