How is child custody handled?

In awarding custody, the court considers the best interests of the child and the following factors:

1. preference of the child (this is usually only considered for an older child);
2. desire and ability of each parent to allow an open, loving, and frequent relationship between the child and the other parent;
3. wishes of the parents;
4. child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
5. mental and physical health of the child and the parents;
6. relationship between the child and the parents and any siblings;
7. evidence of significant spouse or child abuse;
8. coercion or duress in obtaining a custody agreement;
9. which parent(s) have provided primary care of the child; and
10. any evidence of or conviction for drug abuse.

No preference is supposed to be given on the basis of the parent's sex. “Joint legal custody” means that both parents have a say in important matters involving the child such as education, healthcare and religion. Joint legal custody does not necessarily mean equal parenting time. Sole custody means that only one parent has decision making power when it comes to important matters such as education, healthcare and religion. Typically, the courts favor joint legal custody and it is usually the burden of the parent seeking sole custody to persuade the court that sole custody is appropriate. Grandparents and great-grandparents may also be awarded visitation rights.