It’s been three years since I wrote, What Does a Judge Look for in a Child Custody Case. To expand beyond that post, I thought I would actually go interview a sitting family court judge. A few phone calls later, and with a Chic-fil-a lunch bribe, a local judge agreed to discuss, “What do you look for in a custodial parent when both side appear equal?”
What Judges Look for in a Custodial Parent When Both Side Appear Equal
“In a custody suit with most parents being equal, i.e. no abuse, no drugs, no violence and basically good people on both sides, what five elements do you use to determine the custodial parent?”
1. The Parent Who is the Most Stable.
Judges look at the track record of both parents. Who has moved the most? Who has the least job changes? Who is still in the home or provides the most stable home environment for the kids? Whom do the kids feel the most comfortable with day in and day out? Which house will the kids potential thrive in now and in the future?
Stability is not purely a work and home environment. Emotional stability comes into play. Which parent is most emotionally healthy? Which parent provides to most healthy emotional environment for the children?
2. The Parent Who is Most Kid-Centric.
While parenting book find “kid-centric” or “kid focused” parenting to be flawed, it has been my experience that court tend to favor the overly involved parent. Who spends more time volunteering at school? Who helps with homework or is most capable to help in the future? Who creates and maintains the kids extra-curricular activities? Who takes the kids to the doctor? Who buys the children’s food and clothes?
3. The Parent Who has the Most Time to Raise the Kids.
Here is one area that perhaps the Moms may have an advantage. Which parent has the most time away from their job (or no job) to raise the children? Which parent’s career is the most flexible for the children? Which parent is least likely to need daycare or other family involvement to raise kids?
This is not to say that having a great daycare or your retired parents to help watch Johnny is necessarily bad. But that weighs less that a work-at-home Dad who has the flexibility to pickup Johnny from school without others involved.
4. The Parent Who Doesn’t Speak Ill of their Ex.
This is one area the Dads can sometimes excel in. In cross-examination, the social study, or depositions which parent harbors the least amount of animosity towards the other parent? Which parent is going to take the high road when it comes their kids? Which parent is most likely not to talk bad about the other parent, especially in front of the children?
5. The Parent Who Could be the Most Fair with Co-Parenting Issues.
Divorce create adversary relationships among parents. And yet, there will be a thousand future compromises that will have to be made long after the final orders. Which parent is going to take the needs of their Ex and their kids above their vindictive feelings in the future?
Furthermore, in Texas, a social study or caseworker evaluation is usually conducted to help investigate these points. A recommendation is provided in written form to the judge. More often than not, the caseworkers recommendation becomes the judges recommendation.
All of these issues, and many more, are considered to determine what is in the best interest of the children in choosing the primary custodian. Improving these areas long before your final orders or social study, could greatly improve your chances of being the custodial parent.
Feature paid image from Adobe Stock photos.