Child custody disputes in Idaho and around the country are decided by family law judges when the parents involved are unable to reach an amicable agreement. Unlike some other civil trials, there is no jury present during these proceedings. Instead, the judge hears arguments from both sides and then renders a decision. There was a time when judges usually awarded sole custody to one parent and gave the other parent visitation rights, but shared custody arrangements are now the norm.
The best interests of the child doctrine
This is because judges make these decisions based on the best interests of the child doctrine, and research has shown that children are happier and less prone to antisocial behavior when they spend time with both of their parents. Judges rarely award sole physical custody today unless a joint custody arrangement could expose the child to an unsafe environment. Such a ruling could be handed down if one of the parents has a history of domestic violence or substance abuse problems. Other factors that judges consider when determining the best interests of the child include:
• The age and gender of the child
• The wishes of the child
• Avoiding disruption to the child’s schooling and social life
• The parents’ work schedules
• The parents’ physical and mental health
Child custody hearings
The prospect of appearing before a judge can be daunting to individuals who are unfamiliar with legal proceedings. Dressing appropriately for a child custody hearing and being prepared could calm these fears and impress the judge. Parents should also try to remain calm and follow courtroom etiquette during custody proceedings as outbursts are likely to do more harm than good.
Alternatives to court
Emotions often run high during child custody negotiations, which is why finding a resolution that both parties find acceptable can be difficult. However, taking the matter to court should be considered a last resort as there is no guarantee that the judge’s decision will make either parent happy. When discussions are at an impasse and further progress seems unlikely, parents could choose to enter into mediation instead of leaving the matter up to a judge. Mediators are skilled at finding common ground, and they are sometimes able to help parties reach an agreement when litigation otherwise seems inevitable.