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  4.  » Headed for divorce? Understanding the custody process can help.

The most important – and often the most contentious – aspect of any divorce is the determination of child custody. If you have an impending divorce, you may be worried about the possibility of not winning a custody dispute. Knowing the process that courts follow when determining child custody can help somewhat to put your mind at ease.

The court’s process and priorities

The divorce courts in every state follow a strict policy of putting the best interests of the child above all else when determining child custody. In other words, what is best for the child is the most important factor, more important even than the wishes of the parents.

That is why there is no longer a presumption of custody for the mother, like there used to be in many states. Now, the court analyzes the capabilities of both parents, regardless of sex, to determine which of them would be more capable of providing a safe, secure and loving environment for the children to grow up in.

You will have the opportunity to hire an attorney and negotiate a custody arrangement with your ex-spouse and their attorney. However, the custody arrangement you negotiate will only be enforceable if the court evaluates it and agrees that it is the best solution for your children. In other words, the court has the ability to invalidate or modify your negotiated custody arrangement if they determine that it serves your children’s interests to do so.

What does the court consider?

Every state has their own list of factors to evaluate when determining which parent should have custody of their children, or if they should share joint custody. Louisiana law, for example, directs courts to look at things such as any history of abuse, each parent’s mental and physical health and the capacity of each parent to support the child. If the child is old enough and mature enough, the court may consider the child’s wishes.

Courts no longer have a presumption towards custody for the mother. Although you may not know what will happen during custody proceedings, you can rest assured that the court will do its best to maintain the best interest of your child as its top priority at all times.