Delaware law encourages parents to work out custody arrangements themselves without bringing the issue to court. If they cannot come to an agreement, courts make custody decisions based on what is in the "best interest" of the child.

What Is a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a detailed, written agreement that sets out how divorcing parents will share legal and physical custody of their children. In Delaware, the courts typically order family mediation—with the goal of creating a voluntary parenting plan.  If mediation is unsuccessful, the court will assign custody.

Parents must also attend a mandatory six-to-eight hour parenting education course. This course focuses on the challenges of parenting during and after a divorce. Typically, the court will not finalize a divorce until both parents complete the course.

What Does the Court Consider in Assigning Custody?

Delaware courts balance a series of factors when determining the best interest of a child.  These factors include:

  • The depth and quality of the parent-child relationship,
  • The depth and quality of sibling and other familial relationships,
  • The child’s connection to his or her home, school, and community,
  • The physical and mental health of the child and parents,
  • The parents’ criminal histories,
  • Evidence of child abuse or spousal abuse
  • The child’s wishes (if age appropriate), and
  • The parents’ wishes.

A parent’s gender is not considered as a factor. In a custody dispute, a guardian ad litem may be assigned to advocate for the child and help assess his or her best interests.

What Happens When the Court Has Made a Decision?

Once the parenting plan and divorce order are approved, they are filed with the court clerk. Both parents are then bound by the approved custody order and the court must approve any modification of the plan.

Should I Contact a Delaware Lawyer Regarding my Custody Issues?

Child custody disputes can be emotionally charged and require a detailed understanding of the law. If you have concerns about custody and parenting time, it is important that you speak with an experienced child custody lawyer. A lawyer will help advocate for you and your child and work to secure the best possible parenting arrangement for your family.