Determining Child Custody Factors
There are buzzwords to keep in mind with regard to child custody determination: “The best interest of the child.” They’re going to look at all the evidence. And there’re going to be factors that are going to be different in every case. But the Judge is going to consider a whole slew of factors under this lens of the best interest of the child, before he or she makes his decision.
We’re going to talk about a few of the factors that the Judges kind of find to be most compelling, and we’re going to talk you through why the Judges think these things matter, and how they can impact your case.
First, if there’s any sort of history of drug or alcohol abuse, that is not necessarily a completely dis-positive factor on custody. But it is if it affects the children. If, in the past, you’ve had DUI’s, but they were years ago–that’s not going to be super compelling to the Judge. It is going to be compelling to the Judge if you’ve had one recently, and the children were in the car, or if other people testify that you drive around with your Solo cup with alcohol in it (and that’s happening while the children are in the car).
It is going to matter if there’s testimony or there’re facts and evidence that a parent uses drugs in front of the children. That’s where it’s going to matter. So drugs and alcohol abuse where it affects or impacts the children.
Any history of depression, any history of violence towards the other parent, or towards the child. Those are things that are going to be factors the Judge is going to consider. Any sort of physical handicaps or mental handicaps that are going to restrict that parent’s ability to have significant custodial time, those are also going to impact the custody decision.
New Relationships as an Impacting Custody Factor
New relationships can also factor into a custody determination. Let me start by telling you a little bit about what the law says. There’s case law in North Carolina that says the fact that a parent has engaged in a new relationship, is not enough to warrant a change in circumstances calling for there to be a big change in the custody order.
Know that if you start dating someone – that’s not reason enough for the Judge to see a reason to change that custody order. Where it matters is if it’s having an impact on the kids. If there’s any sort of issue with the new boyfriend or girlfriend having some sort of character issues. If the new boyfriend or girlfriend is there every single time that parent has an overnight with the child, and starts to think that the parent is preoccupied with this new relationship.
Those are going to be instances or reasons where that new relationship is going to have an impact on your custody. But, if you’re simply casually dating someone and you’re doing a very good job of slowly introducing this person to the child, and this new relationship isn’t having a huge impact on the child, then you can expect that that’s not going to have a huge impact on your case.
Business Travel as an Impacting Custody Factor
Another factor that is going to make a difference in your custody case is, “How much work-related travel do you have?” This is becoming more and more of an issue as jobs become more and more global.
There’re so many more of us now that have jobs where we’re not tethered to our desks. We have the ability to work remotely, and sometimes we’re forced to work remotely, and we’re forced to travel a lot.
If you’re traveling 3 weeks out of the month, then there’s no way that the Judge is going to order a 50/50 custody schedule – because you simply can’t do that. The Judge isn’t going to order that you have custodial time when we know that you’re going to be gone. That’s going to result in somebody else having the children during the time that’s been court ordered as your time.
If you are someone who travels a lot and you’re concerned about this being a big issue in your case, make sure that you give the Judge all of the facts about your business travel. Is there flexibility? Do you have the ability to tell your employer, “No?” Do you have the ability to request a set schedule?
If you have some flexibility with your travel schedule, you want to make sure that you explain that to the Judge. Keep in mind the Judge is going to do what they think is a realistic schedule. They’re going to think about what is workable, what can this person actually do in terms of custody? That’s going to be the guiding factor.