Whether the parents of a child were never married or are getting a divorce, the court considers many factors when it rules on child custody and parenting time arrangements. First, the court considers the best interests of the child. Two of the general factors considered in this first step are the moral standards and conduct of each parent and the nature, quality and depth of each parent’s relationship with the child.
Other general considerations are the likelihood of each parent to make decisions that benefit the child and permit the child to communicate frequently with the other parent. Regardless of age, the court may ask with whom the child wishes to live, but the child’s desire is not a deciding factor.
Many more factors are considered when determining what type of custody is awarded to the parents. Some of these are the distance between the parents’ residences, the ability of each parent to cooperate and make decisions with the other, the ability of the parents to prioritize the welfare of the child when making joint decisions and the role that each parent has had in raising the child. The effect that the custody ruling will have on the emotional, psychological and physical well-being or development of the child is also considered, along with the ability and willingness of each parent to shelter the child from any conflict that could surface between them.
Not all child custody cases and family circumstances are same, so some of these factors may be relevant to one case but not to another case. Likewise, other factors that are not listed here might need to be considered for some child custody cases. For instance, the history or potential of abuse might be something that the court must consider before ruling on child custody arrangements. Due to this, parents may need to talk to their lawyers regarding all of the factors that could be considered for their specific case and family circumstances before they begin the process for determining child custody.
Source: Utah Courts , “Child Custody and Parent Time“, October 14, 2014