Child custody is often the most contentious aspect of a couple’s divorce. When faced with restricted contact with a child or children, parents tend to go into “fight” mode. Unfortunately—and usually to the detriment of the children—custody cases can go on for months, or even years, costing both parents financially and emotionally. If you and your spouse simply cannot reach an agreement regarding the custody of your children, you could find yourself in front of an Idaho judge who will make child custody decisions you will be left to abide by for many years to come.
Even a decade ago, it was more or less assumed that the mother would receive child custody unless she could be proven unfit. However, times have changed, and so have courts. The best thing you can do, if faced with a child custody issue, is to speak to a knowledgeable Idaho child custody lawyer. Having an experienced family law attorney by your side during this difficult time can greatly affect the outcome of your custody battle.
How Idaho Custody Disputes are Determined
Idaho custody disputes are governed by the Idaho Domestic Relations Law, and in making these custody determinations, the court will use the “best interests of the child” standards. These standards are relatively broad, leaving the court with wide latitude and discretion. The factors which will be taken into consideration include the following:
- Each parent’s desire for custody of the child or children
- The current relationship between each parent and the child or children
- The child’s wishes, if the child is older
- The child’s relationships with other siblings who will be in the custody of either parent
- The circumstances of both parents, including employment, financial situation, and housing situation
- Each parent’s ability to meet the child or children’s daily needs, as well as their mental and physical needs
- The fitness of each parent
- Any history of domestic violence
- The level of each child’s involvement in school and community
- The child’s home life circumstances
- The child’s need for stability
- Any other factors which could potentially affect the well-being, health and safety of the child or children
Visitation decisions made by the court use the same “best-interest” criteria. In the state of Idaho, if a child resides with a grandparent, then the grandparent is on equal footing with the parents regarding custody decisions.
Must You Prove You are the Better Parent?
It is rare that one parent will be given no contact with his or her children, barring extreme levels of drug abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence or other instances of poor parenting. Telling an Idaho judge you are the better parent rarely results in primary custody of the children—your past history with the children and your current circumstances are more likely the deciding factor. It can be helpful to show the judge your level of involvement by keeping careful records regarding your child’s interactions with teachers, your attendance at school activities and whether you are the parent who typically takes the children to the doctor or dentist and supervises their homework. In other words, you must show you are actively engaged with the lives of your children on a daily basis.
By the same token, if you feel your spouse is a particularly bad parent, it will be necessary for you to provide proof of negligence or harm. Interestingly, many parents who are seeking custody of their children fail to see such behaviors as drinking or using illegal drugs as negative in the eyes of the judge. In truth, the judge will take these behaviors into consideration, as well as whether each parent only has negative things to say about the other parent. The parent who is fully engaged in the lives of the children is the parent most likely to receive primary custody, therefore you should be ready to prove what an important, constant part you play in the lives of your children.
Getting the Legal Help You Need for Your Child Custody Case
If you are in the middle of a contentious child custody case, you probably already know of the strain this places on all family members. It is important that you consider the best interests of your children, as well as the impact a lengthy court battle will have on emotional health of your children. If you have an experienced child custody attorney by your side during your child custody case, it is likely the outcome will be much more positive for you and your children. Contact us today to learn how we can help you with your family law matters.