Subjectivity in child custody cases

On Behalf of | Mar 28, 2023 | Child Custody

Child custody cases are complex legal matters that involve deciding the future and well-being of a child. With so much at stake, the proceedings quickly become emotionally charged. Due to the various factors impacting the best interest of a child, as well as the discretion provided to a judge, predicting the outcome of a custody case is incredibly challenging.

Every party involved will likely have different opinions on how best to raise the child. Between parental strategies and child preferences, the judge must unravel a complex tapestry.

A person’s opinions, feelings and beliefs can influence decisions and judgments in a child custody case. So, here’s a question: Is it possible to avoid subjectivity in child custody cases?

Minimizing subjectivity

Although eliminating subjectivity from child custody cases may not be entirely possible, there are ways to minimize its impact.

  • The law – While the court may consider the child’s preferences before deciding custody, the law is much broader than that one factor. For example, throughout Virginia the judges determine the child’s best interest by looking at the statutory factors that are set forth in Virginia law. Some factors to consider are the child’s age, physical and mental condition, and relationships with parents and siblings. Religion, support from extended family members and even foreseen adjustments to school and community are some things the court may look into closely.
  • Expert testimony and evaluations – The court may also rely on statements or assessments made by “expert witnesses” to make an informed decision. For example, a psychologist may perform interviews and tests to evaluate a child’s strengths and weaknesses across many areas. The court then may figure out which parent will be more suited to raise the child based on the result. Testimony from social workers and child development specialists may also be reliable sources to assess the child’s needs.
  • Evidence based on facts – There is also some solid evidence, such as school reports and medical records, that the court can check to confirm any claims a parent may raise during the proceeding.  For example, a mother may point out that her child performs well at his current school and give his school reports as evidence. With this information, the court can make decisions based on actual accounts and not just based on the mother’s claim.

The outcome of child custody cases may be unpredictable because different opinions and impressions may influence the court’s decision. But these subjective considerations are essential to ensure we give the child the best possible outcome. We can use it alongside the established laws, expert testimony and evaluations, and solid evidence presented in court to keep judgments fair and impartial.



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