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Each state has its individual laws regarding how the court should handle a divorce involving children. Some parents can agree readily on how to negotiate custody—who should be the custodial parent and when and where a noncustodial parent will visit the kids. However, when parents can’t settle on an agreement, the court must step in.
A judge will decide custody and visitation based on what is in the best interest of the children. Neither parent gets an automatic right to custody. Instead, most legal advisors recommend that parents take an honest look at their situation, such as their living conditions and resources. Some of the following will be taken into consideration before the decision is made:
- Child temperament
- Developmental needs
- Preferences of the child
- Wishes of the parent
- Interaction and relationship between parents and child
- Behavior of the parent
- Child adjustment
- Stability of existing and proposed residences
- Mental and physical health of all parties
- Any reports of abuse, neglect, or coercion
In a contested child custody case, the court will generally appoint a guardian ad litem at the first temporary hearing. The guardian acts as the child’s advocate and investigates all aspects of the child’s life. Many times the guardian is an attorney, but the guardian can also be a person who has experience with kids, such as a social worker or retired teacher. The guardian will witness how the child behaves at home and with other individuals and may observe the child with each parent in each parent’s home. Guardians ad litem can also give recommendations to the court regarding who should be the child’s primary caretaker.
Once the primary caretaker of the child is decided, the judge can order visitation rights for the noncustodial parent if the divorcing spouses can’t agree on a time frame. Judges will usually award parental visitation to the noncustodial parent to support his or her role in the lives of their children. The judge will consider the children’s age, the parental relationship with the children, the home conditions of each parent, and any particular problems the child may have before making a decision regarding visitation. If the noncustodial parent fails to pay child support, that doesn’t mean they lose the right to visitation. If this situation happens, the custodial parent must go to the judge to solve the problem, who will decide what the punishment to the noncustodial parent will be, if any.
If you’re going through a divorce, make sure you have excellent legal representation. Contact our experienced Greenville family law attorneys for a free initial consultation. Our firm has more than 90 years of combined experience to put at your disposal. If you and your spouse are disagreeing about custody, make sure you have a legal advocate on your side. Contact us at (864) 408-8883 or fill out our online form to schedule a meeting with us today.