Influence of child and family factors on judicial decisions in contested custody cases

Sara R. Wallace, Susan Silverberg Koerner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To explore how child and family factors influence judicial decision making in contested custody cases, 18 family court judges participated in a semistructured interview that tapped (a) child and family factors considered relevant in determining child custody and (b) how these factors influence custody decisions. Judges cited a variety of factors as being influential, including the child's age and developmental status, the child's wishes regarding the custody arrangement, the child's stability, parental fitness, the history of the parent-child relationships, which parent has been the primary caregiver, each parent's willingness to foster the child's relationship with the other parent, and extrafamilial support, Results from a content analysis reflect the manner in which these factors influence judicial decision making. Emergent themes were identified based on four overarching factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)180-188
Number of pages9
JournalFamily Relations
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Child custody
  • Family
  • Judicial decisions
  • Law

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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