Divorce can be a trying, stressful undertaking and when children are involved it only becomes more complicated. Custody disputes cause parents to question the uncertainty of their child’s future. Where will our child live? Will my ex and I be able to work together in raising our child? How does the Court know what is truly best for our child? If you find yourself asking some of these questions while in the midst of a changing family dynamic, there are a few things you should know.
There are two main concerns when custody is being determined: who will make the important decisions for the child, and where will the child live. The important decisions primarily relate to the educational, religious, and medical aspects of the child’s life. This is what the Delaware law considers “Custody.” Custody is either joint (where the parents communicate and work together to make the important decisions in their child’s life) or sole (where only one parent in charged with the responsibility of making the important decisions in the child’s life.) If sole custody is determined to be best for your child, that does not mean the other parent is left on an island. Each parent has the right to receive information regarding the child’s progress in school, medical treatment, and significant developments in the child’s life.
The other concern is where the child will live, or “Placement” of the child. Will one parent have primary placement of the child, or is a shared placement arrangement more suitable? If primary placement with one parent is determined to be best, then the non-residential parent is typically entitled to visitation with the child. The best outcome here is for the parents to come to a visitation agreement that fits their circumstances and the child’s life. If the parents cannot agree, Family Court may order visitation with the goal of encouraging frequent, meaningful contact between both parents and the child. Family Court uses standard contact guidelines that strive to accomplish that goal.
In order to make the custody and placement determinations, Family Court considers the factors contained in Title 13, Section 722 of the Delaware code. These factors are more commonly known as the “best interest factors.” The best interest factors explore the relationships the child has with his/her family; how the child is performing in school; the child’s involvement in the community; the conditions of the child’s living arrangements; and a myriad of other details that provide the Court insight into your family life. The factors are then weighed by the Court to determine joint or sole custody, and if primary or shared placement is best for your child.
Quality legal representation helps to ensure a result that will work best for you and your child. To discuss the factors the Court considers in custody disputes or if you have any other Family Law related questions, please call Schmittinger & Rodriguez at (302) 674-0140 to schedule a consultation.