Child Custody Basics (including
parents divorce, the divorce decree will specify with whom the
couple's children will live (and circumstances under which the other
will visit with the children). Often, parents work out these
between themselves, either completely
voluntarily or with the assistance of
their attorneys or a mediator. When they are unable to reach a
however, or when unmarried parents are unable to agree on who will have
of their child, the court may intervene and make a decision based on
child's best interests. Nebraska and Iowa have rather diverse laws,
with Child Custody. Nebraska defaults
to sole custody, and Iowa’s laws favor joint custody.
Understanding what needs to be proven is the first
resolving this complex issue.
you’ve already got a divorce decree, and are unsatisfied with the
of Child Custody, due to changes in a custodial parent’s behavior,
circumstances, or living conditions, a Motion for Custody Modification
filed on your behalf, with the court of jurisdiction.
Incorporated is a Licensed, Bonded, Insured, and Experienced Private
Investigation firm, specializing in Child Custody investigations. Once you’ve looked at the Scope
Objective page of this website, you should ask yourself if you, or
other parent, would be more wholesome, and in the best interests of
child/children? If the answer is you,
you may need to give us a call at 402-399-9559.
and Legal Custody
most situations, physical custody is awarded to one parent with whom
will live most of the time. Often, however, the custodial parent shares
"legal custody" of the child with the non-custodial parent.
"Legal custody" includes the right to make decisions about the
child's education, religion, health care, and other important concerns.
parents have chosen a joint-custody arrangement in which the child
approximately equal amount of time with both parents. Proponents of
arrangement say it lessens the feeling of loss that a child may
experience in a
divorce. Critics, however, say that it is best for the child to have
base, with liberal visitation allowed to the "non-custodial" parent.
Because joint custody requires a high degree of cooperation between the
parents, courts are reluctant to order joint custody unless both
parents are in
agreement and can demonstrate the ability to make joint decisions and
for the child's sake.
option, although much less favored, is split custody, in which one
custody of one or more of the parties' children, and the other parent
of the other(s). Courts usually prefer not to separate siblings,
issuing custody orders.
the child's parents are unmarried, the statutes of most states require
mother be awarded sole physical custody unless the father takes action
awarded custody. An unwed father often cannot win custody over a mother
a good parent, but he will usually take priority over other relatives,
parents, or prospective adoptive parents.
Decisions: Factors to Consider
deciding who will have custody, the courts consider various factors.
overriding consideration is always the child's best interests, although
can be hard to determine. Often, the main factor is which parent has
child's "primary caretaker" (more on this below). If the children are
old enough, the courts will take their preference into account in
the "best interest" standard does vary from state to state, some
factors are common in the best interest analysis used by the individual
of the child (if old enough to capably express a reasonable
and physical health of the parents;
and/or cultural considerations;
for continuation of stable home environment;
and opportunity for interaction with members of extended family of
and interrelationship with other members of household;
to school and community;
and sex of child;
use of excessive discipline or emotional abuse; and
of parental drug, alcohol or sex abuse.
"Primary Caretaker" of the Child
addition to the above factors, some states' family courts allow a
for the parent who can demonstrate that he or she was a child's primary
caretaker during the course of the marriage. In custody cases,
"primary caretaker" factor became important as
psychologists began to
stress the importance of the bond between a child and his or her
This emotional bond is said to be important to the child's successful
through his or her developmental stages, and psychologists strongly
the continuation of the "primary caretaker"-child relationship after
divorce, as being vital to the child's psychological stability.
determining which parent has been the primary caretaker, courts focus
care-taking responsibilities, such as:
grooming, and dressing;
planning and preparation;
clothes and laundry responsibilities;
participation in extracurricular activities; and
of reading, writing, and math skills.
on the state where the custody determination is being made, other
be considered as important when determining primary caretaker
Incorporated is experienced in these kinds of issues, and can assist
determining the best approach to
solving the problems with the best interests
of your child/children in mind. Even
such things as exposure to second-hand smoke and volunteerism in the
school have been considered in a primary caretaker analysis.
a judge will allow things to pass, if they aren’t mentioned in the
the children suffer because no one thought of a particular issue. While, in the past, the primary caretaker
preference seemed just another way to award custody to mothers, as more
more men share parenting responsibilities, this preference does not
favor mothers, now that we’ve reached the twenty-first century.
is apparent that both parents have equally shared parenting
courts once again will fall back on the "best interest" standard in
determining custody. Evidence,
Incorporated can assist you in finding the answers to those tough
and prepare you and your attorney to present them to the court. For an in-depth discussion of Child Custody
or Modification, please give us a call at 402-399-9559.
When either parent seeks to have the
custody order changed,
it is his/her burden to show the court why it should be changed. The
follows the old notion of, "if it
isn't broke don't fix it." This
is based on the idea that stability is best for the child unless you
that there is something in the environment that will adversely impact
well being of the child. This is not as simple as it may seem. It will
inevitably involve offering evidence of the changes that may or may not
been present during the court’s initial review of the case, but were
considered, or the condition wasn’t known at that time.
The factor(s) in the environment have to not
just make your home as good as the custodial parents, but better. To do
you must show that either there has been a substantial change in
or you’ve discovered something of a magnitude so important to the
court, that a
review is necessary, AND that it is in the child's best interests to
change you are proposing. If the two homes are thought to be equal,
custody will stay as it is. Remember, a
temporary or pendente lite custody order is not a final order. You
would not be
required to show a substantial change
in circumstances to have custody changed in the "permanent" custody
order. That usually requires a
In most states, when a child reaches 16 years of age he or she can seek
change in custody on his/her own. However, it will be the minor's
prove that a change of custody would be in his/her best interests at
this time. Remember that there is a
of psychological damage that can occur, if a child of any age is asked
participate in decisions of a parental nature. Never
burden a child, with adult problems, and
teenagers are still
children. DO NOT ask any child to make
a choice of this nature, but if that child arrives at the decision
without influence from either parent, it may be something to consider.
The court that made the original custody and visitation
retains jurisdiction to decide modification unless the parties and
longer have close ties to the court and the court surrenders its
However, the court with original jurisdiction may refuse to hear the
if a child has been wrongfully taken from another state or taken
consent of the person entitled to custody.