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Do I need a separate bedroom for all of my kids?

When the Birmingham family courts rule on child custody matters, they take many factors into consideration when determining where the children will live.

One potential factor that could influence the court's decision is the parent's living accommodations. There is no single standard for acceptable living conditions. It's dependent on many things, including the parents' and children's unique circumstances.

But the courts can also consider local and state norms. It's also a fairly subjective decision, as the judge's own personal opinions and biases can creep in. However, the overriding concern will be what is best for the children.

Economic factors typically secondary to family ties

Few courts can justify keeping an otherwise loving and attentive parent from exercising his or her custodial or visitation rights simply due to the parent's lower socioeconomic circumstances. If the parent lives in a three-room shotgun shack, that's a reality that must be dealt with accordingly. The parent can provide a bed (or bunk beds, if there are two children) in the bedroom while the parent bunks down on the couch in the living room.

Courts recognize that older children need more privacy. They may balk at a teenager sharing a bedroom with a toddler or middle-school-age sibling on a permanent basis but may take a more lenient stance for purposes of visitation. The judge will have to weigh the temporary lack of privacy over the damage done by disallowing visitation under those circumstances.

No two families are the same

Courts realize that what works well for one family might be a nightmare scenario for another. If a child is in the custody of elderly grandparents in an otherwise safe and stable home, the court may be more likely to allow the child to sleep on a futon in a designated section of the living room than it would if the child had the same accommodations in a rambunctious house with many generations coming and going at all hours.

The child's safety is paramount

Is your neighborhood considered to be safe, or are property crimes and assaults common? It would not be unreasonable for the court to consider whether the environment is safe and child-friendly.

If it's not and you are either unable or unwilling to move to a safer area, you might have to reconcile yourself to visitation in other environments, e.g., a relative's home.

Adjustment difficulties

If your child's other parent's living standard is vastly better than yours, your child could experience marked difficulty transitioning from a privileged environment to a much more modest one. If he or she is unable to adjust to the situation to the point where it could affect him or her psychologically, the court will have to weigh this against the harm done by not spending adequate time with one parent.

Building a strong case for custody

If you're in a contested custody battle, attempt to offset any negatives with one or two positives. Keep in mind that the courts realize that maintaining ongoing relationships with both parents is generally in a child's best interests.

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