Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

How does a court make its child custody decisions?

There is no job that is more difficult, or important, than raising a child. There is never a shortage of decisions for Salt Lake City residents to make when raising their children, including those regarding the child's education, beliefs, relationships, and much more. Ultimately, parents decide how to raise their children based upon what they believe will be best for the child.

Courts use a similar test when it comes to making decisions about children in a divorce. As discussed last week on this blog, the court has a number of options when it comes to determining how to award physical and legal custody over the children.

In reaching these decisions, the court is guided by the best interests of the child, which is the legal standard used to consider the child's wants and needs. This is a broad test that considers a variety of different factors.

For instance, a court will examine which parent is more likely to act in way that ensures the child's safety, which parent will promote a healthy relationship with the other parent, the relationship between the child and parent, and the parent's conduct. The court might also consider the child's preference, depending on his or her age and maturity, although this is not a controlling factor in the decision. In other words, the court might award custody to a parent even when the child desires to be with the other parent.

The court also looks at a variety of other issues, including the child's physical, psychological and emotional needs and whether there has been any history of abuse. The court is also permitted to look at any other factor that might be present in an individual case. Accordingly, the court's decision will focus broadly on the child's best interests, which is guided by a consideration of all facets of the child and parents' lives.

Source: Utah Courts, "Child custody and parent time," accessed on Oct. 17, 2015

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