In our last post, we began looking at the best interests of the child concept, and some of the considerations that courts take into account when making child custody determinations. As we noted last time, courts do have significant discretion in child custody decisions, but can still be held accountable for abusing their discretion.
One of the ways state law protects parents from an abusive child custody decision is by requiring that judges issue written findings of fact reflecting the considerations of each relevant factor in the case and which provide support for the judge’s final determination. Providing a written record can help ensure judges do their job properly, and makes it possible for parents to challenge the decision later on if it is determined to be an abuse of discretion.
One of the important roles and experienced attorney can play in child custody cases is to ensure that the judge has access to all the information necessary to make a fair determination in the case. This includes providing information about the other parent that may not have come up in the evaluation process and defending against false or exaggerated information provided by the other parent.
An experienced attorney can also suggest to the judge which best interests factors merit special consideration, and can help put factors into their proper light as far as the weight the judge should give them. In some cases, these and other angles on legal representation can make a significant difference in the outcome of child custody cases.
So, again, while any advocacy done in the context of child custody is geared toward the child’s interests rather than the interests of the parents, it is certainly still important to work with an experienced attorney to ensure one has the best possible shot at a favorable outcome.