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What Do Judges Take Into Consideration For Child Custody Cases?

When a child custody decision is left to the discretion of a New Hampshire court, the judge may assess a number of relevant factors.

When parents cannot agree on a custody plan, the decision is left to a judge. As the New Hampshire Judicial Branch points out, one or both parents may file the petition in court.

As the law clearly states, a judge who is tasked with making a decision regarding child custody places the best interest of the child as the priority. However, what does that actually mean? There are a number of factors that play into a court’s final ruling. Parents who are involved in these battles should be aware of what those are and how it could affect the outcome.

1. Relationships

Experts agree that it is important for a child to have a relationship with both parents, barring extreme circumstances. Therefore, the relationship that the child has with each parent will be evaluated. Along the same lines, a judge considers how each parent is able to give the child affection, guidance and love.

In addition to the parent-child relationship, a judge may assess the relationship between the parents. Are they both willing to work with each other to foster a positive relationship between the child and the other parent? This could play a significant role when looking at custody.

Other relationships may be considered as well, such as the relationship a child has with siblings, other relatives and anyone else of significance.

2. Meeting the child’s needs

Though child support payments are a separate decision, a court hearing a custody issue still weighs each parent’s ability to provide for needs of the child, which includes the following:

  • Medical care
  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Shelter

Additionally, the court evaluates the safety of the environment the child would be in with each parent. Lastly, the child’s needs extend into developmental needs as well.

3. Evidence of abuse

Any abuse is a major red flag. The court could take any evidence of abuse into consideration. This not only includes child abuse, but also spousal abuse.

4. Incarceration

It should be noted that if a parent is currently incarcerated, it does not mean that gaining custody in some form is impossible. A judge looks at why the parent is incarcerated and how long the incarceration is expected to last.

5. Other relevant factors

There is a “catch-all” phrase in New Hampshire law that enables a court to take any other relevant factor into consideration. This is in place because the law recognizes that every family dynamic is unique, and there may be other considerations outside what is written.

People who have concerns about this issue should speak with a family law attorney in New Hampshire.