What Kind of Questions Does the Court Ask in Custody Battles?

By Christine Funk, J.D.

What Kind of Questions Does the Court Ask in Custody Battles?

By Christine Funk, J.D.

As their general premise, each state makes custody decisions based on the best interests of the child. However, what is in the best interests of the child is often a judgment call. Private school versus a public education? Living in the country versus living close to family in a neighborhood? Spending time with grandparents versus remaining with a well-known daycare provider? Pros and cons often exist in deciding the custody of children.

Little girl with straight, red hair writing in a notebook sitting at a desk next to a man working on a computer

Continuity is Important to Children

Most states have statutes that allow the judge to consider continuity in a child's living arrangement. Divorce is traumatic enough for children. Turning their world upside down by removing them from the family home will just add more trauma. This is not to say, however, that whoever keeps the house gets the children.

The judge will want to know what sort of parenting plan you currently have in place, and what sort of parenting plan you propose. Your parenting plan should include important details, such as where the child will stay each night, how the child will be transported from one house to the other, what custody arrangements may be altered on holidays, birthdays, or other special days, and how your child can contact their other parent when they are staying with you.

Your Child's Needs

Because the decision is made in the best interests of the child, courts may consider a child's needs, including:

  • Physical needs.
  • Emotional needs.
  • Cultural needs.
  • Spiritual needs.
  • Medical needs.
  • Mental health needs.
  • Educational needs.
  • Any other needs the child may have.

The court will consider the impact each potential custody arrangement will have on the child's needs.

Parental Issues

If there has been an allegation of domestic abuse by either party, the court will most likely ask for details. They may want to know about the nature and the context of the allegations, how they may impact a child's safety, and whether the alleged perpetrator has gone to counseling or otherwise worked on the issue. The court will also likely ask about whether either party has any mental, physical, or chemical health issue that affects the child's development or their safety.

Existing Parent-Child Relationships

The court will want to know about the history of each parent's participation in parenting, and the nature and extent of each parent's care toward the child. Additionally, it may inquire about each parent's ability and willingness to provide ongoing care for the child.

The court may also seek a commitment from each parent not to interfere with the other parent's parenting time, and consider the effect a proposed parenting time plan will have on other relationships the child enjoys. These relationships could include siblings, extended family members, and other significant people in a child's life.

Potential Changes in the Future

Courts may ask about future plans. When considering the custody of the child, plans for a new school, new home, or new adults in the household may be considered.

The Relationship of the Parents

Finally, courts may ask questions regarding how the parents relate to each other. Parents who cannot communicate may have a harder time sharing joint physical or joint legal custody. Parents who are committed to finding ways to communicate and raise the children together are more likely to succeed at a joint custody arrangement. Thus, the court may want to know about these issues.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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