You and your spouse have heard that the children's best interests are the focal point of the child custody case when you get divorced. Above all else, the court will seek to find the solution that is best for your kids, even if that's not exactly what the two of you want.
As your divorce gets closer, you start looking into this standard a bit more so that you can understand how to approach the case. What you find, however, is that it's fairly vague.
One of the biggest issues with this standard, even when people wholeheartedly agree that it is a good area of focus, is that it's vague. It's open for interpretation. It could be viewed very differently from one court to the next.
Part of the issue is that the court must consider many factors. These could include things like:
- The parents' ability to take care of the children.
- How much money the parents have and what that means in terms of living situations and necessary assets, like food and clothing.
- The emotional ties that the children have with each parent.
- The affection and love that the parents have for the children.
- Where the children will need to live after the divorce, and how close that puts them to peers, friend groups and the like.
Some of these factors are a bit easier to define, such as where the child lives. If one parent lives 20 miles away and the child will need to switch schools and make new friends, while the other parent lives across the street from the child's current school, it's not hard to decide which option the child will prefer.
However, there's no clear way to determine the extend of an emotional attachment or how much love either parent holds for the children -- or how much love the children have for their parents.
How much do assets matter?
Another potentially complicated area is in terms of wealth. How much should it matter? It's clear that a child should not live in poverty. If one spouse has nothing and can't put a roof over the children's heads, that's clearly not a good fit, but what if one spouse is simply more well off than the other?
For instance, perhaps you have a net worth of $3.5 million. Thanks to a prenup, your spouse won't get it. He or she has a job, but earns just $25,000 per year. While both of you have homes, food and clothing for the kids, who should get custody? Does the fact that you can provide a more lavish lifestyle help you, or will it not factor in at all?
Custody questions like this can grow complicated since the law is often not all that specific, and it's crucial to know your options and your rights.