When parents and/or legal guardians cannot agree on custody arrangements and guidelines, litigation ensues described as a “custody battle.” A custody battle exposes the child(ren) to the dispute and puts them in between their parents/guardians. The parties must consider why they are fighting for custody: is it fighting for custody or fighting so that the other spouse doesn’t have custody? Is it in the best interest of the child(ren)?
If proceeding in a custody battle or dispute, here’s what to expect when the court intervenes:
- The court will take into consideration the best interest of the child when making the decision.
- If the court feels that neither parent/guardian is acting in the best interest of the child a guardian ad litem may be appointed to help in making decisions on the behalf of the child.
- Depending on the age of the children, their wishes may or may not be taken into consideration. Some states strongly take into consideration the wishes of the children depending on their age; some states do not consider the child`s wishes at all, without regard to age.
- Unless it is apparent one parent should have custodial right over the other due to a situation such as physical abuse or substance abuse), the court will order an independent evaluation performed by a court-appointed mental health professional such as a psychologist or a social worker. A thorough evaluation can include the following: interviews with all the parties involved (individually and possibly with the parent and child together); psychological testing of both parents and the child; review of school records and or conversations with teachers; review of medical records and developmental history; review of legal records, such as the papers filed regarding the divorce, any possible domestic disputes and any criminal records of either party involved. Expect the evaluation to take at least four to six weeks and possibly longer. Custody battles can be time-consuming and expensive.