When it comes to child custody, the preference of the court is to award the parents joint custody because that is what is generally in the best interests of the child. In this case, each parent sought sole legal and physical custody. The court had to figure out if joint custody was feasible and in the best interest of the child or if awarding one of the parents sole custody was appropriate.
Petitioner father and respondent mother are the parents of a 2-year old child, born on June 21, 2017. The couple was never married. Paternity was established on November 22, 2017. The couple had an agreed upon parenting schedule, but did not follow it. Thereafter, Petitioner sought sole legal and physical custody of the child, asserting that his work schedule was more flexible. In the alternative, petitioner requests one day of parenting time a week. In response, the mother also filed a petition seeking sole legal and physical custody of the child.
The court started off its analysis by noting that when making determinations related to custody, the law requires that they seek to determine what is in the best interest of the child. See Eschbach v. Eschbach, 436 N.E.2d 1260 (1982). The factors to consider include:
- Quality of each parent’s home environment
- Ability of each parent to provide for the child educational and emotional development
- Ability of each parent to provide financially for the child
- Ability of each parent to foster a relationship with the other parent and the impact of the custody award on the child’s relationship with the other parent.
Ideally, the court awards joint custody as the child will benefit from equal parenting time and both parents contributing to the care of and decisioning making related to the child. However, this can only happen where the parents get along well enough to cooperate with respect to caring for the child and each parent is otherwise fit to care for the child.
Here, the main issue with the parties was childcare. The father has been granted liberal parenting time—4 days a week. However, he had not taken advantage of it for two years because he did not want parenting time on the weekend. He claimed that he had to work on the weekends, while also claiming that his work schedule was flexible. Furthermore, the father was not able articulate a sound reason why granting him sole custody would be in the best interest of the child.
On the other hand, the mother has been the child’s primary caregiver. However, she has not been totally cooperative in allowing the father to take advantage of his scheduled parenting time. For example, when the father asked to have the child Wednesday to Friday as originally agreed to, she responded that it depended on what she had to do. Even though the father did not make much of an effort to see the child, when he did, the mother was not totally cooperative.
Even though the court found that neither parent acted in the best interests of the child and that neither parent made much of an effort to help ensure that the other parent fostered a positive relationship with the child, the court found that it was in the best interest of the child to award sole legal and physical custody to the mother. The court found that the mother had demonstrated that she had the ability to meet the child’s needs. The court also found that the mother had the ability to foster help the child foster a relationship with father. The father was given liberal visitation.