In our previous post, we began looking at some of the factors family courts consider when making child custody decisions. As we noted, judges have broad discretion to consider any factor relevant to the best interests of the child. Special consideration is given, naturally, to factors relating to the safety and welfare of the child.
Courts will be especially cautious in cases where there is a history of domestic violence or other violent crime, or where there are allegations or suggestions of abuse or mistreatment. One of the big hurdles that can come up in child custody cases is false allegations of abuse or domestic violence. In particularly contentious cases, allegations of abuse or domestic violence can effectively turn a court against a parent, for right or wrong, and this is something that has to be dealt with.
One important point for parents to keep in mind is that advocacy in the context of child custody cases is different than advocacy in the context of property division matters. In the latter, an attorney’s role is to advocate for the rights of the parent over and against the interests of the other parent. With child custody, the purpose of advocacy is to ensure the court has all the information it needs to make the best possible decision for the child, that the information is accurate, and that the court has the proper perspective on the information it has discovered.
All this is to say that child custody advocacy is not about the desires of the parents as much as the right of the child to the best possible custody arrangement. This doesn’t mean, though, that strong advocacy in child custody proceedings is unnecessary. On the contrary, an experienced attorney will know how to build the strongest possible case to ensure that the court is best situated to make a favorable decision for a parent.