Although we think of divorce as a marriage dissolving, it also means a change in the daily lives and schedules of the children, too. They’re often involved in divorce cases, especially since divorces happen, on average, after nine years of marriage. About 50% of all children in the U.S. will witness the divorce of their parents. It’s important for any divorcing couple with children to keep these arrangements at the forefront of their considerations.
Child custody lawyers advise keeping the best interest of the child as your first consideration; even if you, perhaps justifiably, have a poor opinion of your spouse’s ability to raise your child, most courts agree that it is ideal for a child to have access to both parents barring situations of abuse or neglect.
For most people getting divorced, entering the legal waters of child custody laws is new territory. Here are a few things family law firms recommend keeping in mind.
Child Custody Laws Vary by State
Child custody lawyers recommend becoming familiar with the child custody laws in your specific state. Most states have similar laws, which look for an outcome that’s in children’s best interests. These laws also take domestic violence into consideration, as 4.8 million women experience domestic abuse by a partner every year. Many states, though, have unique quirks. Arkansas, for example, can order parents involved in a child custody case to submit to a drug test.
The Law Does Not Prefer the Mother
About 14.4 million custodial parents have an informal or legal support agreement in place. It’s common to hear the rumor that “courts favor the mother, regardless of the circumstance” in a custody agreement case. While it is, of course, possible to have a biased judge, this often is a misinterpretation of statistics. While the majority of the time, mothers get primary custody, in the large majority of cases this is an uncontested agreement. In other words, mothers are more likely to be primary custodial guardians simply because both parties agree to this arrangement. As long as you have good child custody lawyers on your side, you will likely be able to get the custody arrangement you wanted.
Dealing With the Aftermath
Unsurprisingly, divorce can be a traumatic event for children. Studies have shown that children between the ages of five and eight tend to experience intense sadness, and feel guilt; children ages nine to 12 tend to feel intense anger; and children ages 13 to 18 experience a mix of these emotions and are more likely to act out. In all cases, it’s a good idea to invest in therapy for the child and/or for the family.
As always, consult child custody attorneys with any specific questions or concerns you have regarding child custody legal advice.