Child Custody FAQs

If you and your spouse are divorcing, and you have children, the divorce can become exponentially more difficult. When custody and child support issues are being discussed by divorcing parents, emotions can run high. Idaho’s child custody laws are much the same in many ways as other states, in that the best interests of the children are always the primary concern of the court.

In Idaho, the court will determine how the parents will share—or which parent will be awarded—decision-making rights and responsibilities for the children, as well as health decisions, decisions regarding education, and even which—if any—religion the children will be raised in. This is known in Idaho as “legal custody.”

The courts will then determine where the children will primarily live—which is known as “physical custody.” The relevant factors considered by the courts (assuming the parents cannot come to a mutually-agreeable custody decision) include the following:

  • What each parent would like to see as far as child custody and the proposed parenting plans
  • Whether either parent has the intention of relocating following the divorce
  • Each parent’s physical and mental health
  • Whether there has been any history of abuse between the parents, or between the parents and the children
  • If the children are older, the wishes of the children
  • How the children will adjust to a change in home, school and/or community
  • The relationships between the parents, children, and siblings, as well as extended family members, such as grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins
  • Which parent’s proposed plan will contribute the most stability to the children’s lives

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What is joint custody?

Joint custody could encompass joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or both. The parents could have joint legal custody, meaning they would make the decisions regarding education, health, religion, etc., together, while joint physical custody would mean the children spent roughly equal amounts of time living with each parent (although a true 50/50 split is rare, and can be difficult to accomplish).

Joint physical custody could mean the children live with one parent Monday through Thursday, and the other parent Friday through Sunday, or something comparable.  If one parent has sole physical custody of the children, then the other could have liberal visitation rights, or, depending on the situation, could have minimal visitation rights, or even supervised visitation rights.

If both parents share custody, who pays child support?

In the state of Idaho, child support is determined by the gross monthly income of both parents, as well as each parent’s expenses. The parent who spends the majority of time with the children is a factor in how much child support will be paid, although it will not totally determine how much child support one parent will pay.

Are visitation and child support linked?

A parent is not allowed to deny visitation to the other parent, even if that parent has not paid child support. Visitation and child support are two separate issues; if the parent who is obligated to pay child support has not paid that support, then the other parent must go through the proper legal channels to enforce payment. While that is happening, however, visitation cannot be denied to the other parent.

Can a child decide which parent to live with?

While there is no set age at which Idaho courts will allow a child to decide which parent he or she prefers to life with following the divorce, the court will consider the wishes of a child it considers mature enough to express a reasonable opinion regarding custody. The court may decide to interview the child (away from the parents) to make this determination.

What is a Parenting Plan?

Parenting plans are documents required by the court which specify custody and visitation issues. If the parents agree on a parenting plan, they will submit their desired plan together to the court. If there are areas of contention, each parent will submit a parenting plan, and the court will determine which requests are reasonable and in the best interests of the children.

Are mothers favored in custody decisions over fathers?

The best interests of the children are the primary deciding factor in Idaho child custody decisions. If it is determined that the best interests of the children are better served with the mother, then the court will likely grant primary physical custody to the mother, and vice-versa. While years ago, mothers may have had an “edge” in custody decisions, this is really not the case today.

Do a child’s grandparents have any custody or visitation rights?

The state of Idaho does, in some cases, grant visitation rights to grandparents, or even to great-grandparents, if it is shown that such visitation rights would definitely be in the best interests of the children.

Can child custody agreements be modified?

If there has been a significant, material change in the child’s circumstances, or the circumstances of either parent, then the court may consider a modification in child custody. The change must serve the best interests of the child, and new facts must be present since the prior custody order, or else facts must be presented which were not known by the court at the time the original custody order was entered.

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