Child Custody and the Law

Parents who are going through a child custody battle might wonder how various laws can affect their rights. While each state has specific laws pertaining to child custody, the common factor among those laws is that they all serve to protect the interests of the child.

Relationship Status

When any court has to decide child custody matters, the court will use a variety of factors to decide where the child should live. One of these is the child's relationship with the parents. Gone are the days when courts automatically favored mothers over fathers in child custody matters. Instead, courts now try to determine which parent can help the child to deal with the emotions stemming from the divorce. If there is more than one child, the court might look into the relationship between the children.


The court will look into the stability of the parents to determine which parent can offer a stable home for the child. This means that it is unlikely that a parent who is homeless would be given custody of a child over a parent who has a stable home. The stability of the parents not only includes living arrangements, but also job security and a child's comfort in the school and community of the parent's home.

Wishes and Desires of the Children

Some states have laws that allow judges to take the child's wishes into account in child custody cases. When this is the case, the state's laws often have a minimum age and other requirements that must be met in order for the court to take the child's wishes into consideration. Most courts also allow the parents to voice their opinions in child custody matters. When this is the case, the parents shouldn't stoop to bashing each other to make the other parent look bad. Instead, showing they want the child's best interests to be met is usually the best idea.

Interstate Custody

With the exception of Vermont and Massachusetts, all other states and Washington, District of Columbia follow the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. This act ensures that the orders of the child's home state are followed. This essentially stops a parent from trying to alter child custody orders by filing petitions in a jurisdiction in which the child doesn't live. Of course, there are a few exceptions to this act. Unless there are specific exceptions present in a case, courts not in the jurisdiction in which the child lives can't issue judgements. Even if the child is currently living in a state, no orders can be issued unless that state is the child's state of residence, which usually means the child has to live there for a minimum of six months before action can be taken.

When a court is trying to decide the type of child custody to award in a case, petitions filed by the parties can have a significant impact on the decision. Seeking the help of an experienced family law attorney might help to learn what you need to include in petitions for child custody.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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