There is nothing more contentious in family law than the child custody case. Mothers generally, but not always, have primary physical custody of the children, and Fathers, generally, want more time with the kids. Theoretically, the Courts would like all custody time to be split 50% / 50%, as all kids' need a father's and mother's influence. The problem is, that because of logistical reasons, or facts particular to a case, 50% / 50% is not feasible. So many times the split is not equal. So, who gets the kids then and how do the Courts determine the split.
The Courts use the concept of "what is in the best interest of the child". Basically, the Court will look at numerous aspects of both family lives to see which helps nurture the child the best. In doing this evaluation, the Courts puts great weight in what is known as "the status quo" (i.e., what has the custody arrangement been over the recent past.) The Courts will look to see what school district the kids have lived in over the past few years, what nights the kids stay over with the father and what nights the kids stay over with the mother. Quite simply, if this arrangement has been working, then the Courts are reluctant to change it. If the arrangement is causing issues for the kids, then a change may be necessary.
The caveat to all this is that when you first become engaged in a custody dispute be very careful as to how many nights you give to the opposing spouse. Remain cognizant of the fact that the weight afforded to the "status quo" is quite significant. So, do not take it lightly and consult with an attorney before agreeing to anything.
If you or someone you know needs advice regarding child custody or a related matter, contact my Pittsburgh law office, Gusty A. E. Sunseri & Associates.