When making custody arrangements, courts tend to lean towards the existing arrangements. This is because courts are reluctant to upset the lives of children who have been accustomed to a certain arrangement. Parents who know this try to negotiate for favorable temporary custody arrangements (during separation) knowing that the courts are likely to follow the same plan. However, this isn't a guarantee because there are factors that can easily make a judge disrupt the status quo. Here are four examples of such factors:
The judge has to make a new arrangement if there is a new law that upsets the existing one. The longer you stay separated before divorcing, the higher the chances that a new law may come into effect affecting your child custody arrangement. This is true for all couples, but it is more likely for same-sex parents, who are more frequently affected by constantly changing laws.
For example, it might be that your state did not honor custody requests from non-legal parents when you separated, and your partner (who was the legal parent of the kid) had full custody. If the law has since changed to allow such requests, the existing custody arrangement can easily be revoked.
When it comes to child custody, the wellbeing of the child comes first. Therefore, if the existing arrangement encourages a violation of the child's welfare, then the court will not care about any arrangement you made or had before the hearing. Violations against the child, such as abuse, harassment, and violence, are classic examples of things that can threaten a child's welfare. Therefore, if the custodial parent is involved in any of the violations, they are likely to lose their custody rights irrespective of the status quo.
Lastly, the judge is also likely to toss out your existing arrangement if circumstances have changed since you made it, and it is not impractical to enforce. After all, custody arrangements aren't just legal issues; they are also supposed to be practical and enforceable.
Consider an example where you had an arrangement that allowed one parent to have the kid during the weekdays, and the other parent would have them over the weekends. Such an arrangement wouldn't be practical if one of you moves across the country. In such a situation, a new setup is warranted.
These are just three examples, but there may be other factors that could upset an existing child custody plan. Therefore, don't just lose hope because the status quo doesn't favor you as far as child custody is concerned. If you are gearing up for a custody hearing, consult a family lawyer (like those at Backus Law Group) to evaluate the circumstances and help you advocate for a new plan.