What Factors Influence an Idaho Child Custody Determination?

A court in Idaho must examine list of complex factors in a child custody determination

In a perfect world, when it comes to child custody, parents would always be cooperative, would work together to create a parenting plan that allocates time with both parents on a realistic schedule that is in the child or children's best interests and that is viable for both parents.

That does happen, sometimes. Of course, in the real world, not everyone fits within this ideal circumstance. So you and your former spouse cannot agree on a workable child custody plan? What happens now?

If you cannot agree, then a judge will have to determine a child custody arrangement that is in the best interests of the child. This is a statutory standard based on a number of relevant factors.

Multiple Factors

The Idaho statutes list a number of factors that a judge will consider, if relevant for the child, in determining what custody arrangement will be in the child's best interests.

First, they consider "the wishes of the child's parent or parents as to his or her custody." Parental desires and behavior are important. The judge will also consider the wishes of the child as to his or her custodian, taking into consideration the age and maturity of the child. The wishes of a 15-year-old will likely carry more weight than those of a toddler.

The third factor looks holistically at the "interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parent or parents, and his or her siblings." This can be a complex factor and it helps to provide the judge with as much relevant evidence as possible about how you interact with your children, their siblings (including step-siblings and half-siblings), and their other parent.

The next factor examines "the child's adjustment to his or her home, school and community," and is especially relevant if one parent's residence would require a change in schools or something that could disrupt a child's sense of well-being.

The fifth factor looks at the "character and circumstances" of the parents, grandparents or other adults who will be around the children. If a parent or other person involved with the children has substance abuse issues or has been incarcerated or has other issues that affect the person's general fitness, the court will consider these things in deciding the nature and extent of a parent's parenting time.

The sixth factor examines the child's need for "continuity and stability" in their life, which includes their sensitivity to these issues and their involvement in their community and school. A particular child's needs for continuity and stability may differ depending on the child's age and other circumstances. The analysis for a toddler would be very different from that used with a child heavily involved in sports or other activities at a particular school.

The last statutory factor concerns whether there has been any conduct of a parent that involves domestic violence as defined by the Idaho Code. This is a very serious factor and if it is present it is likely to be given a great deal of weight by a judge during a custody determination. Domestic violence is broadly defined by Idaho Code section 39-6303.

The Best Interests

Because of the complexity of many of these factors, you may need the help of an experienced Idaho family law attorney. Because an experienced attorney understands the statutes and the court cases that have interpreted the statutes, they can review the facts of your situation and help to build a case that will demonstrate to the judge how your parenting plan will serve the best interests of your child or children.