How Living Accommodations Impact Child Custody

Courts will often make child custody and visitation decisions based on a parent's living accommodations. The standard for acceptable living accommodations is based on the child's and the parent's individual circumstances.

Considerations will vary by court, by state, and even by the judge. Here are a few things judges will consider when faced with a challenge to living accommodations for custody and visitation purposes.


Child's Age and Gender

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If a non-custodial parent is of the opposite sex of the child, the court may expect the parent's home to offer the child as much privacy as possible. This could mean ensuring that the child has her own bedroom, bathroom, or a private place to get dressed.

Additionally, an older child may require more space than a younger child. This means that a court may not look favorably upon a teen sharing a bedroom with a sibling in elementary school.

Don't fret if you don't have a lot of money and a spacious home to offer your child. Plenty of parents are in the same circumstances, and affordable housing is difficult to come by in many large cities, let alone affordable and spacious housing.

A judge will be flexible and take into consideration each parent's unique situation.


Number of Children

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A judge will consider the number of children involved when determining appropriate living accommodations. If a parent has a number of children, a judge might expect the parent to have more space to accommodate the children during overnight visits.

Unfortunately, this may mean the judge may hold it against you if you want your three children to share a bedroom or one child to sleep on the couch and another in the bedroom with you. If you have different children from different relationships and they don't live with you regularly, this may also be taken into consideration by the judge.


Parent's Unique Circumstances

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A judge will consider a parent's age and unique financial situation when determining child custody and appropriate living accommodations. For example, a grandparent with custodial rights may have less money to provide a larger home for his/her grandchildren.

Additionally, a parent who pays child support might not be able to afford a large home to allow for his/her children to have their own rooms.

Just do your best (within reason) to provide for your child and hope that the judge takes your situation into consideration when making a ruling.


Child's Ability to Adjust

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A child who is accustomed to a larger space may have trouble adjusting to a smaller space in a parent's home. A judge will consider whether a child would be psychologically affected by a drastic change in his/her environment.

However, a judge's main concern will be the best interest of the child. As such, a judge would assume that a child will be happy, even with less space, as long as the child has the opportunity to spend time with his/her parent. So, don't worry if you can't compete with the child's wealthier parents in terms of housing.


A Child's Safety

Day in the life of a stay at home dad
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A judge will inquire as to the safety of the parent's home and neighborhood. If there's a potential chance of harm to a child in a home or neighborhood, a judge might limit overnight visits to the non-custodial parent's home. Research the area where you live. How many homicides occur there? How many sex offenders live nearby? All of these factors may be used against you.

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  1. Raub JM, Carson NJ, Cook BL, Wyshak G, Hauser BB. Predictors of Custody and Visitation Decisions by a Family Court Clinic. J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2013;41(2):206-218.