When a child is being fought for, the most common question asked by the parties involved is, “How does a court determine the custody of a child?” According the Minnesota law, children are placed based off of what is in their best interest. However, this phrase can be very vague and confusing, so in order to better understand it, it can be broken down into some more particular points.
One thing looked at when a child’s custody is in question is what the parents’ of that child want. What this means is that in some cases, a parent is fully aware that he/she is unable to raise his/her child. What a court does is listen to where that parent hopes his/her beloved child ends up. If the parent displays the qualities of a person with sound morals, a judge will take what the parents wants for the child into heavy consideration.
Additionally, what the child wants is taken into consideration as well. This is another grey area, as a court must first decide that the child is of age and sound mental health before taking his/her opinion seriously. What this means is that if a child shows enough maturity to want to stay with one person over another for reasons other than those including extra candy or play time, then the judge will weigh what the child wants equally with all other factors being taken into consideration.
Another important factor that is considered is the child’s primary caretaker. A parent might be able to make a strong case about how much they love their child, but if the child’s grandmother is the one at home with the child for the majority of the time and putting in the work to raise the child, that parent might be overlooked. What this means is that regardless of DNA, the person who takes care of a child, of his/her basic everyday needs, makes a world of difference.
The interaction and relationship that goes on between the child in discussion and his/her parents, siblings, relatives, or other people who may affect the child’s best interests is also heavily considered when deciding about the custody of a child. The best interest of a child means that that child is supported in not only basic, everyday needs, but emotionally and socially as well.
Another circumstance that many people forget but is equally as important as the others is the child’s adjustment to his/her home, school and community. Where a child grows up is just as important as who that child grows up with. This means that if a child has a strong social life and is excelling in school, a judge would be less likely to take that child out of that environment.
This goes along with the next element that is considered in a custody battle; how long a child has been living in a stable, healthy environment, and how much of a desire there is to give that child the consistency of staying in the same place. If a child has been thriving for years in a safe neighborhood with an excellent school, then everything that can be done will be done to keep that child in that place of comfort and success.
The permanence of the proposed home for the child is also crucial in determining the best interests of a child. If a family unit is constantly changing, that might sway a judge to reconsider placement of the child. What this can mean is if a parent is constantly bringing new people into the child’s life and then taking them out, such as many new significant others, that is deemed damaging and unhealthy to that child’s adolescence.
All of the individuals involved will be mentally and physically evaluated as a part of deciding where a child will end up. If two parties in competition are neck in neck in the regards of all other aspects, a psychological and/or physical evaluation could be the determining factor in the final decision. This literally means that if one person is physically unfit to care for a child, then he/she will not remain in hold of custody of that child. Similarly, if someone is not mentally sound, then he/she cannot be in custody of a child, because that child would be at risk under that person’s care.
Another enormous component that goes into deciding what is in a child’s best interest is the ability for the parties in question to bestow onto the child love, affection, attention and guidance. If a party refuses to continue the child’s education or acknowledge the child’s cultural practices, custody is less likely to be awarded to said party. This is a basic concept that sometimes is overcomplicated by people. What it means is exactly what it sounds like; a child needs to be adored and loved to the fullest extent possible.
The next detail relates directly to the previous; the child’s culture. A judge will always do what is necessary to respect a child’s culture as long as the child remains safe. This means that if a child has been raised in a certain religion, and a change in custody would completely uproot that, it may be reconsidered. Similarly, if a child has grown up around an all accepting household and now is possibly being thrown into a place of judgement, that placement will more than likely be cancelled.
These are just a few of the many things taken into consideration when a child’s future is held in the hands of a judge. In writing, they sound vague and impersonal. But the truth is, without these, a little human may be placed in the wrong hands of the wrong people in the wrong home, and that is not an action to be taken lightly.