Who Is Most Likely to Get Custody of a Child?

Divorce can be horrible, and it can also sometimes be cathartic, but it is always a relatively painful process, with extra heartbreak when kids are involved. The simple answer about who is likely to get custody is that it depends on many different factors that are mostly in the interest of the children, and gender is no longer a leading consideration.

The main considerations for which parents gets custody of a child:

  • The child’s choice
  • The least disruptive choice for the child
  • Quality of life with each parent
  • Which parent is “around more”
  • Parental behavior and past records
  • How the parents get along with each other

It’s about the kids

All across US divorce courts, judges are unequivocally concerned with one outcome overall: what is going to happen to the kids and what is in their best interest? There are a number of ways for the court to consider the children’s best interest, and if they are old enough (usually 12 or 13), it may even be the children’s choice.

Disruption is another factor in considering the child’s best interests. If one parent has already left the home at the start of the split, then the parent who is currently living with the kids is most likely to get custody. From the perspective of most courts, maintaining stability for a child who is already seeing his parents’ marriage dissolve is critical.

If a parent is seeking full custody and is moving out of the town, county, or state, they need to be able to respond to how that move is going to impact the child. Things to consider in this situation include the emotional and logistical changes involved for the child to move to a new school and how they feel about leaving their friends and starting over.

It also very much matters what the quality of life is like in the home of the parent who is seeking custody, particularly when the custody arrangement they seek involves the child moving to their home.

The “mom” factor

According to Farzad and Ochoa family attorneys, there is a misconception that mothers are more likely to get custody in court, but times have changed and fathers are just as likely to get custody. A parent who puts their child first and comes to court prepared can expect to get joint custody.

Part of the case you will be making in court is describing and framing your relationship with your child. Things that can damage the case behind that strong and supportive emotional bond between one parent and the child are negative habits like excessive drinking, smoking, or drug use. Any evidence of child abuse is a red line that needs to be addressed in court.

For a long time, it was true that moms were awarded greater or full custody more often than fathers in divorce proceedings. The old approach more resembled the gender roles assumed in earlier generations, and such norms are rapidly disappearing. Here are some more tips specifically for fathers going through a divorce, with either full or joint custody as their goal.

But there is a further “mom” factor here that applies best to both parents: cooperation. This involves how the parents deal with one another. Judges will consider in custody decisions the degree to which each parent is open to their child’s continued positive and close relationship with the other parent. Cooperation and mutual respect is always the ideal.

Other key considerations behind custody decisions

Money is certainly a factor here, as is the case in so many civil disputes. A parent’s ability to provide for their child financially factors into the equation in a big way. However, it is further down in consideration with child support payments as a supplement to a parent who may have less money but is seen as the ideal primary guardian.

Also relevant is who will be able to spend more time with the children. There may be a case where one parent is making all the money and working full time, while the other stays at home or works part time. The latter parent will have a stronger chance of being awarded primary custody.

Personal backgrounds are extremely important to custody cases as well, particularly any criminal records or problems with the law, debt, negative associations, or questionable lines of work. It is always best to get help from a civil litigation attorney to handle complicated cases of child custody.