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What factors can affect child custody decisions?

When a child custody decision must be made, parents often work together to find a mutually agreeable solution. This can be beneficial for the child, since parents are usually the people who know their child’s needs best.

However, sometimes parents don’t agree on what their child’s needs are. This can prevent parents from being able to reach a decision. When this happens, a Wisconsin court may need to step in and make the custody decisions.

When deciding what custody arrangement is most appropriate, a court will prioritize the child’s best interests. But, how can a court determine a child’s best interests if the parents can’t even agree on what their child’s best interests are?

A court can consider any relevant factor, and will consider the reports of appropriate professionals, such as a psychologist. However, there are several factors a court will typically consider when determining a child’s best interests.

Some of these factors, include:

  • Each parent’s wishes
  • The child’s wishes
  • The child’s relationship with his or her family members
  • The time each parent has spent with the child
  • The child’s adjustment to home, school, religion and community
  • The child’s educational and developmental needs
  • The mental and physical health of all parties
  • The child’s need for stability
  • The availability of child care services
  • Each parent’s ability to communicate with the other
  • Whether each parent can support the child’s relationship with the other parent
  • Any history of child abuse
  • Any history of domestic abuse
  • Any history of alcohol or drug abuse

Understanding the factors that a court may consider can be helpful to parents facing important child custody decisions. These factors may help a parent better advocate for a child's best interests when negotiating with the other parent or pursuing fair outcomes in court.

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