Custody of children is determined by a best interests standard. There is no single definition as to what constitutes best interests, other than no single factor can control and the courts must look to the totality of the circumstances.
Over the years the Courts have considered various factors which have worked their way into case law. These factors include:
- Which parent is the primary caregiver
- Which parent is better suited to the emotional and intellectual development of the child
- Which parent is more likely to foster the child's relationship with the other parent
- Separation of siblings
These are only a handful of the factors considered.
When the parents reside in different states an extra level of complexity is added, as the first step is to determine which state has jurisdiction (i.e. the authority) to determine custody.
Relocation with a child is another aspect of custody. In order to relocate, either both parties must agree or the court must determine it is in the child's best interests.