In our last post, we looked briefly at some of the ways fault can come into play in property division. As we’ve pointed out, although fault is no longer recognized as a factor for purposes of dissolution, fault-base factors can come into play in the division of property. Here, we’ll look briefly at how fault-based factors can impact child custody determinations.
As we’ve previously written, judges are primarily concerned with the best interests of the children in making custody decisions, and look at a wide variety of factors to determine what it really best for children of divorcing couples. Courts will consider every relevant factor, and will inevitable consider each parent’s lifestyle, character, habits, life decisions, and so on.
State statute specifically lists factors such as domestic and sexual abuse, which obviously have an enormous impact on children. Also listed are factors like the ability of the parents to cooperate in making decisions about the child and the level of conflict between the parents, as well as the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage an ongoing relationship with the other parent and the child.
Courts may consider any relevant factor, though, in making custody decisions. This can touch on decisions regarding the parent’s use of alcohol and drugs, the relationships the parents are in, the company they keep, and so on. One important point to keep in mind, though, is that courts should not take a punitive approach toward a parent in custody decisions, such as giving a parent less time with a child because of factors that have little to no impact on the child’s health and well-being.
No matter what the situation of a parent in child custody proceedings, it is important to work with an experienced attorney to ensure not only that all relevant factors are taken into consideration, but also that the various factors are given appropriate weight.