one parent wants split custody

Will Courts Split Siblings? Story time

Goldberg Jones Child Custody Leave a Comment

It is rare for the court to split siblings. There has to be a compelling reason, or more likely reasons, that a court would even consider it, but a gentleman in New Jersey said he was told the following story by his mother.

  • The story starts with a court proceeding in a custody dispute.
  • There are five children that are given the choice of who they would like to be with.
  • The father’s suggestion is that the children should be split up between the two parents.
  • After remembering a bible verse the heroic mother offers to let the father have all the children. In a wise Solomon twist, the court decides to grant custody to the mother.
  • A short court recess came, and the mother explained to the children how things were looking.
  • She told them the judge was considering the father’s request to split the children up.
  • The father suggested the boys could come live with him and the girls would live with their mother.
  • The mother was distraught over this suggestion and did not want the children split up.
  • With the court recess now over, the mother of these five children went back into the courtroom and spoke to the judge.
  • She said, “If you are going to split the children up, then just give them all to their father.  Do not split them up, for their own good.
  • The judge then awarded them all to the mother.

We’re going to give him the benefit of the doubt here, while it’s incredibly unlikely to have unfolded in this manner, there are a couple hints in the story that can explain what happened.

I think the likely truth behind this story is that splitting the siblings was never really an option. Instead, the court found that the father, (who the author suggests had some aggressive tendencies), would not be the best choice for primary custody.

This would never happen today, and definitely not in Washington.

There are two ways that the court decides custody.

  • It either signs off on the a parenting plan,
  • or it comes up with its own version a parenting plan when the parties are forced to litigate it in front of the judge.

In the latter example, you would have one parent asking for split custody and the other asking for primary custody.

While the court could propose the split, the responsibilities of the court are heavily weighted towards the best interest of the child. In that case, the court is going to simplify the issue and decide to give primary custody to one parent.

In the former example, where you have agreeing parties, there is still a high burden to show that this plan is in the best interest of the child.

The court would likely appoint a *guardian ad litem to review the situation and make a recommendation in the best interest of the child.

Indeed, I have seen the court appoint at GAL in cases where the parents do not want to split up siblings, but just provide equal custody between the parents.

Either way, the moral of the story is to ask a lawyer first. The best thing the father could have done in this situation was seek legal advice.

Instead of coming to court with the idea of splitting up the siblings, he could have come to court with an effective parenting plan that would likely have giving him visitation rights.

*  A “guardian ad litem” (GAL) is a person the court appoints to investigate what solutions would be in the “best interests of a child.” Here, we are talking about aGAL in a divorce or parental rights and responsibilities case. *

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