Divorce is always a hard issue, but it becomes an insurmountable issue when children are involved. It’s amazing how quickly a marriage where both parents have been putting forth a façade of perfection for years, can dissolve illuminating two emotionally & physically abusive neglectful monsters (or that’s the what complaints/answers/ counterclaims would have you think.) The parents go from being teammates to enemies in a matter of weeks. The parents are now documenting each bath, trip to the doctor, and bedtime story to prove that they are the better parent. The reason for this? To prove who is better suited to have custody.
Regardless of what most people think, the tender year’s doctrine isn’t exactly supposed to be the norm these days. The tender year’s doctrine or the theory that if there is a child involved in a case, the mother will automatically get custody of the children has been replaced with the “best interests” standard. This standard basically means that the court will consider a number of factors in order to award custody and visitation based on the best interests of the children. These factors were set forth in the case Ex parte Devine back in 1981 and continue to rule the court system. (398 So. 2d 686 (Ala 1981). Looking at what’s in the “best interests” of a child isn’t exactly an easy task, but the factors to consider truly help with making the decision a little easier. Here are the following factors the trial judge will consider:
- The sex & age of the children;
- The characteristics and needs of each child, including their emotional, social, moral, material, and educational needs;
- The respective home environments offered by each party;
- The characteristics of those seeking custody, including age, character, stability, mental and physical health;
- The capacity and interest of each parent to provide for the emotional, social, moral, material, and educational needs of the children;
- The interpersonal relationship between each child and each parent;
- The international relationship between the children;
- The effect on the child of disrupting or continuing an existing custodial status;
- Preference of the child, if the child is of sufficient age and maturity;
- The report and recommendation of any expert witness or other independent investigator;
- The available alternatives; and
- Any other relevant matter which may be present.