Shared Parenting Information Group (SPIG) UK

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Child custody and access - US legislation

An analysis of the legislation of the following US states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan.


Overriding presumptions [top]

The need for contact
Joint custody
No preference as to which parent

Temporary custody [top]

(Joint) custody plan [top]

Best interests of the child [top]

Factors to be considered when awarding custody [top]

Factors to be considered when evaluating the optimal time for a child to spend with each parent : [top]

Factors to be considered before denying joint custody [top]

The presumption in favour of joint custody may be rebutted by showing that it is not in the best interests of the child, after consideration of evidence introduced with respect of all of the following factors:

- effectively the 'best interests' list again

Order of preference for awarding custody - temporary or final. [top]

To both parents jointly, or to either parent.

If to neither parent, to the person or persons in whose home the child has been living in a wholesome and stable environment.

To any other person or persons deemed by the court to be suitable and able to provide adequate and proper care and guidance for the child. (California, Louisiana)

Mediation [top]

At any time within 30 days of a petition for child custody being filed, the court may order the parties to submit to mediation. (Alaska)

Interviews by judge [top]

The court may interview the child in chambers to ascertain the child's wishes as to his custodian and may permit counsel to be present at the interview. The court shall, at the request of a arty, cause a record of the interview to be made and it shall be made part of the record of the case. (Delaware)

Reports [top]

The court may seek the advice of professional personnel whether or not they are employed on a regular basis by the court. The advice given may be in writing and shall for good cause shown be made available by the court to counsel of record, parties and other expert witnesses upon request, but shall otherwise be considered confidential and shall be sealed and shall not be open for inspection except by order of the court. Counsel may call for cross examination any professional person consulted by the court. (Delaware)

Mental health reports [top]

An evaluation may be ordered on the motion of either party. The evaluation shall be made by a mental health professional agreed upon by the parties or selected by the court. The court may apportion the costs of the investigation between the parties and shall order both parties and the children to submit to and cooperate in the evaluation, testing or interview by the mental health professional. The mental health professional shall supply the court and both parties with a written report. The mental health professional shall serve as the witness of the court subject to cross examination by either party. For the purposes of this article "mental health professional" means a psychiatrist or a person who possesses a Mater's degree in counselling, social work, psychology, or marriage and family counselling.

Court welfare reports [top]

There shall be a code of practice for the preparation of welfare reports.

The report shall be made available to all parties at least 10 days prior to the hearing (California)

Either party may have the right to challenge the contents of such a report.

Reasonable access [top]

Conditions for supervised access [top]

The court shall consider whether the best interests of the child require that any visitation granted to a parent shall be limited to situations in which a third person, specified by the court, is present. A parent may submit the name of a person to the court that he deems suitable to be present during visitation. (California)

Disputes concerning access [top]

Upon a verified motion by either parent, or upon the court's own motion alleging that a parent is not complying with a visitation order or schedule and setting forth the possible sanctions that may be imposed by the court, the court shall determine from a verified motion, and response to the motion, if any, whether there has been or is likely to be a continuing non-compliance with the visitation order or schedule and either: After the hearing, if a court finds that a parent has not complied with the visitation order or schedule and has violated the court order, the court, in the best interests of the child, may issue orders which may include but need not be limited to :

Conditions for makeup of visitation [top]

Modification or termination of joint custody [top]

If a motion for modification has been filed, whether or not it was granted, no subsequent motion may be filed within two years after disposition of the prior motion unless the court decides, on the basis of affidavits, that there is reason to believe that the child's present environment may endanger his physical health or significantly impair his emotional development.

The court shall not modify or terminate a prior custody decree unless it finds, upon the basis of facts which have arisen since the prior decree, or which were unknown to the court at the time of the prior decree, that a change has occurred in the circumstances of the child or his custodian and that the modification is necessary to serve the best interests of the child. In applying these standards the courts shall retain the custodian established by the prior decree unless:

The burden of proof is on the party seeking a change, and the standard is by a preponderance of evidence. (Colorado)

Access to records [top]

Footnote [top]

"Best interests of the child" means the sum total of the following factors to be evaluated and determined by the court : [top]

David Cannon

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