When a couple with children splits up, the courts will formulate a child custody agreement to determine physical placement and legal custody. “Physical placement” describes a child’s living arrangements. “Legal custody” describes the person who signs permission slips and makes key decisions (religious, medical, etc.) for how the child will be raised.
Physical placement & legal custody
Physical placement and legal custody are primarily determined based on the standard of “best interest of the child.” Parents have their own ideas about what’s best for their children, and this creates a Wild, Wild West of parental opinions. Every parent has a different concept of what’s in the best interest of the child, but the legal system has its own definition. To set consistency across the board, the court uses 16 factors to determine “the best interest of a child.” As if 16 factors aren’t enough, the 16th factor is open-ended. No. 16 is any other factor that’s appropriate.
16 factors of best interest of the child
It can be confusing for parents because the factors aren’t arranged in order of importance. In fact, the courts provide no guidance about which factor is more important than the others. In addition, the standards are subjective, not objective. This means that the standard is not what a “reasonable” child deals with, or a similar child the same age deals with; it means what is best for your specific child.
Plus, decisions are based upon a child’s specific situation, not generalities. The court will ask, “What is happening with this particular child?” The process of determining “best interest” is so foreign to parents, and the result may or may not be what the parents expect.
Child custody legal arguments
When I interview parents for a child custody case, I ask them a series of fact-based questions. As a parent explains his or her situation, I pick out the facts that fit into the 16 categories. I sort and prioritize the details a parent shares and form a legal argument. By doing so, I can present a strong case to a Family Court commissioner or judge.
Family court litigation
Litigation before a commissioner or before a judge is extremely important. Parents can benefit by having an experienced, knowledgeable Family Law attorney who knows how to present testimony and witnesses in accordance with the 16 “best interest” factors. The concept of “best interest of the child” is very difficult to understand, yet so important in determining physical placement and legal custody.
For legal assistance with child custody orders or other Family Law concerns, contact me for a free consultation.
About Us: Attorney Devin Shanley is the approachable expert clients can trust. A native of Green Bay, Wisconsin, Devin has been developing legal solutions in his beloved hometown since 2012. Married to Mo and dad to two rambunctious kids, he has a soft spot for the Green Bay Packers, grilling out, and playing with his kids. His areas of practice are Estate Planning, Family Law, Business Law, and Non-Profit Organization Law. Schedule your free consultation by calling 920-471-4337.