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What factors do courts take into account when deciding who gets custody of the children?

A court gives the “best interests of the child” the highest priority when deciding custody issues. What the best interests of a child are in a given situation depends upon many factors, including:

  • the child’s age, gender, mental and physical health
  • the mental and physical health of the parents
  • the lifestyle and other social factors of the parents, including whether the child is exposed to second-hand smoke and whether there is any history of child abuse
  • the love and emotional ties between the parent and the child
  • the parent’s ability to provide the child with food, shelter, clothing and medical care
  • the child’s established living pattern (school, home, community, religious institution)
  • the quality of the schools attended by the children
  • the child’s preference, if the child is above a certain age (usually about 12), and
  • the ability and willingness of the parent to foster healthy communication and contact between the child and the other parent.

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