The paramount consideration with respect to a change of custody determination must be the best interests of the child. A home environment of constant fear where physical or psychological violence is the means of control and the norm for the resolution of disputes must be contrary to the best interests of a child.
A 30-year old man filed a petition in court seeking custody of his son alleging that the son’s mother is mentally ill and mentally abusive to their son. The mother asserted that she has had de facto custody of the child since birth and she has provided him with a stable home. The mother also said the father was criminally abusive.
During trial, evidence showed that the mother’s childhood has been dotted with verbal, mental and physical abuse from her own mother and her mother’s partners. The mother herself has had several failed relationships, including the relationship with the father of the subject child. The mother has three children, fathered by different men. The mother admitted that she has never received any love or affection from her mother or her step-father.
Evidence presented in court also showed that the father’s life is no less stellar than the mother’s. He also had several failed relationships and two failed marriage. The father has also admitted in court that he has, on several occasions, inflicted physical harm towards the mother of the subject child and that, at one time, he has destroyed a dining set with a baseball bat at the presence of the subject child and the mother’s eldest child. The father’s former wife also testified that he assaulted her on several occasions, which resulted to a divorce. Of note also is the father’s financial unstability. He has declared personal bankruptcy to discharge his debts. Also, during the proceeding, he has not presented any concrete plans on how he would provide for his son.
The mother, on the other hand, has a permanent job as a medical technician. A child therapist also noted that the children have a close relationship with their mother, and the boys, except for normal sibling scuffles, get well along each other. The court also found the mother’s fiancé as sincere in his desire to provide a stable home for the mother and her children.
Among the factors to be considered in a custody case is the quality of the home environment and the parental guidance the custodial parent provides for the child. Additional factors include the ability of each parent to provide for the child’s emotional and intellectual development, and the financial status and ability of each parent to provide for the child. Courts also consider the impact of domestic violence on the child in custody/visitation proceedings.
The evidence, viewed in its entirety, shows that both parties are far from perfect. But the court has determined that, through the evidence and testimonies, the mother can well provide her children with a stable family life.
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