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How a demanding job might affect child custody

Certain professions call for long, hard and irregular hours or extensive travel. Sometimes it is for a short period to get through an important deadline. In other situations, it is ongoing part of the job. Being an entrepreneur, business owner, executive, health care professional, firefighter or in the military can place additional stress on your relationships because the hours do not fit the nine-to-five norm.

While your occupation can present unique challenges, can it also affect your chance at child custody when you are getting divorced?

The best interests of the child

California, like most states, determines custody by considering the best interests of the child. This term is open to interpretation, but custody hinges on a few basic principles, defined by the court specifically.

These factors include, in no particular order:

  • Your child’s age
  • Your child’s health
  • Your ability to provide care
  • Emotional bonds between parent and child
  • The child’s connection to the community, a home and/or school
  • Your personal history (such as a record of substance abuse or violence)

Your job’s impact on your parental ability

A job that requires ample time commitment does not disqualify a parent from custody, but it does affect how you will raise your child. In short, the court asks how your 60-hour workweeks or your frequent travel will affect your child’s interests or upbringing. Instead of asking “what,” it asks “how?”

Parent/child time is important to the court, and you will need to demonstrate that while you work a demanding schedule, it will not affect your child’s well being. In contested custody cases, your ex-spouse will likely challenge your ability to be there when your child needs it most. He or she may state that your child is more connected to the mother than the father.

Highlighting and strengthening your bond

It is possible to be a successful parent and work outside of a normal schedule. It is important to highlight your bond with your child and your ability to provide the right care—such being able to leave work to pick up a sick child from day care or to bring an injured youth to the doctor. There are many ways to show your strengths as a parent. One option is to work with an experienced family lawyer who can help document examples that emphasize these traits.

There are no absolutes in family law and the principle of “best interests” leaves room for interpretation. This means there is no required work schedule for a parent and there is no universal factor that will make or break a custody decision. In child custody cases, your goal is to prove that you will put your child first and act in his or her interests when needed.

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