One of the most emotional and contentious discussions during and after a divorce involves the custody of your child. Some couples use the children as leverage against the other, other couples decide to rise above their differences and have combined outings to maintain a sense of normalcy for the children. Most couples, however, realize that the children are the most prized asset and the best thing that came out of their relationship. The reality of the divorce, though, is that unless the spouses are neighbors, a 50/50 split in custody is not always possible. Thus, one party will typically have primary custody. Often, each party believes that they should be the primary custodian, and the court will choose the party best fit for the child.
The primary and overarching consideration in child custody disputes is the best interest of the child. This criterion involves the evaluation of the safety, happiness, and physical, mental, and moral welfare of the child. The statutory factors that the court must consider in making a child custody award include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The needs of the child
- The stability of the home environment offered
- The quality and continuity of the child’s education
- The fitness of the parents
- The extent and quality of the time spent with the child prior to or subsequent to the separation
These factors have often been used to determine that obesity can lead to tilting custody in the favor of one parent over the other. With the First Lady’s focus on child obesity, a number of studies have been dedicated to the effects of childhood obesity on the mental, social, and physical welfare of a child. These studies are beginning to translate into court decisions establishing that the best interest of the child is to be in an environment that works to prevent obesity through better diets and a more active lifestyle.
A parent who feeds their child excessive amounts of fast food and then places them in front of a television will have a difficult time proving that they should have primary custody over the child if the other parent provides more balanced diets and takes the time to engage in physical activities with the child.
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When fighting for custody of your child, your goal is to establish that you have your child’s best interest in mind. While this seems simple enough, it is important to evaluate your understanding of your child’s best interest with the court’s understanding of your child’s best interest. The PA family law attorneys at Smith and Horwitz can help you present the best case for primary child custody.