If you're in your 30s and getting divorced, your kids are still probably fairly young. This means that the child custody decision is the single most important part of the divorce. The decision not only shapes your life but the children's lives as well. Below are four critical factors that can influence the case.
1. The kids' ages
Infants need far different care than teenagers. Your children's ages are major factors in determining which parent will have physical custody, This is especially relevant when considering where the kids go to school or what extracurricular activities they are involved in. Generally, the court doesn't want to take the children out of their schools or force them to give up peer groups and relationships. The goal is to keep the kids' lives as "normal" as possible through the divorce and beyond.
2. The kids' desires
As kids get older, their preferences carry more weight. The court has their best interests in mind, after all. That doesn't mean children always get what they ask for. If all other things remain equal, however, what the child wants could make the determination.
3. The child's medical or special needs
Some children simply require more care than others, and the courts will consider what child custody agreement best addresses those needs. A child who must have constant care will not be well-served living with a parent who constantly travels for work and can't spend a great deal of time with him or her. The court wants to put the child in a healthy living situation.
Physical settings also matter. For instance, a child may be confined to a wheelchair. If one parent lives in a single-floor home that is already wheelchair-accessible, that would likely be considered far superior to the multi-level home of the other parent. The court wants to make sure that the child lives in the most accessible and comfortable home environment.
4. The religious setting
When parents differ in religious persuasions, this may also be a consideration. If the child has upcoming religious ceremonies like a bar mitzvah, that could give the edge to the parent who will continue to honor that tradition. The ultimate goal is often that the parents strike a compromise, but this isn't always possible.
At your age, your kids are still going to be living with you for a long time. Make sure you know your rights as a parent when getting divorced, and be sure you know how to fight for those rights if you're worried about losing your kids.