What are the factors that the court will take into account when deciding who the child will live with?
- The welfare of the child will be of paramount consideration in determining which parent the child should live with.
- The child’s wishes may also be taken into consideration if the child has sufficient maturity to express which parent he/she wishes to live with. The child must usually be above the age of 10.
- Siblings will generally not be separated, unless parents come to an alternative arrangement.
- Other factors include the child’s age, schedule and activities.
- Further, courts do give ample consideration to the maternal bond between mother and child, and this is especially so for younger children. However, in past cases where it was proven that the father has shown more concern for the child than the mother, custody may be given to him instead.
- Whom the child’s primary caregiver was during the marriage is another significant factor, as the courts will tend towards allowing the child to live with the primary caregiver.
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The courts will take these considerations into account using reports concerning the child such as the Social Welfare Report and the Access Evaluation Report.
Social Welfare Reports are used to decide which parent gets custody of the child where there is a dispute. They are prepared by officers from the Ministry of Community Development and Sports. These officers will speak to the child and observe his/her interactions with the parents.
Access Evaluation Reports are prepared by the Family and Juvenile Justice Centre’s counsellors. They will help the court resolve disagreements over access to the child.
It should be noted that these reports are confidential, and will only be available to the judge.