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Joint custody and the best interests of children

Child custody is probably the most important issue parents have to work through in divorce. Because of the emotional nature of dealing with the care of children, child custody disputes can be very contentious. Parents instinctively feel the need to defend their parental rights and highlight the other parent’s weaknesses and faults. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it needs to be done in the right way.

In child custody cases, the primary consideration for family law courts is the best interests of the children. For parents, this means that their own wishes have to take a backseat to what is best for the children. Obviously, though, family law judges have a good deal of discretion when it comes to establishing custody arrangements, and it is important for parents to advocate for themselves in custody cases. 

There are a variety of factors judges take into consideration when determining what is in the best interests of children. One important issue is whether joint custody is in the best interests of the children. This depends on several factors:

  • Whether the parents can agree on joint custody;
  • Whether the parents are able to cooperate in joint decision-making;
  • Whether the parents are willing to encourage a healthy relationship of the children with the other parent; and
  • How close each parent is to one another.

Ideally, parents are able to agree on and cooperate with joint custody, but courts may order a form of joint custody even when the parents do not both agree, provided doing so is in the best interests of the children. In cases where parents do agree, courts presume that joint custody is in the best interests of the children.

Joint custody can often be beneficial for children, of course, but this is not always going to be the case, and it is important for parents to work with a skilled legal advocate when there are factors dictating against joint custody.

Source: The Code of Alabama: Section 30-3-152

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