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How does a court decide which parent will get custody of a child?

When the parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, the court will make the decision for them after considering the totality of the circumstances, with the overriding consideration being the child's best interests. To make that determination, the court considers:

  • The child's age;
  • The child's gender;
  • The child's physical and mental health;
  • The parents' physical and mental health;
  • The parents' lifestyles;
  • Any history of abuse;
  • The emotional bonds between the parent and the child;
  • The parent's ability to give the child guidance;
  • The parent's ability to provide the basic necessities, such as food, shelter, clothing, and medical care;
  • The child's routines, including home, school, community, and religious;
  • The willingness of the parent to encourage a healthy, on-going relationship between the child and the other parent; and
  • If the child is above a certain age, the child's preference.

In many cases, a consideration of these factors results in awarding custody to the parent who has been the child's primary caretaker. Although this is often the child's mother, any preference for the mother strictly on a gender basis is outmoded.

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Disclaimer

This publication and the information included in it are not intended to serve as a substitute for consultation with an attorney. Specific legal issues, concerns and conditions always require the advice of appropriate legal professionals.

 




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The Law Offices of Michael R. Magaril
114 S. Euclid
Westfield, NJ 07090
Phone: (908) 389-0100
Fax: (908) 389-0141
Email: mrm@magaril.com