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Child Custody Laws in Delaware

Child Custody Laws in Delaware



Over the past ten years, Delaware’s child custody laws and regulations have evolved to prioritize the best interests of children involved in custody disputes. This article outlines key changes in Delaware’s child custody laws and regulations from 2013 to 2023.

2013: Child’s Best Interests Standard

   – Adoption of the child’s best interests standard as the central criterion in custody decisions.

2014: Shared Custody Emphasis

   – Emphasis on shared custody arrangements to ensure ongoing involvement of both parents.

2015: Parenting Plans Requirement

   – Introduction of mandatory parenting plans outlining custody, visitation, and support arrangements.

2016: Child’s Preferences Consideration

   – Consideration of the child’s preferences in custody decisions based on age and maturity.

2017: Grandparent Visitation Recognition

   – Recognition of grandparent visitation rights in custody proceedings.

2018: Domestic Violence Protections

   – Strengthened provisions to protect children from exposure to domestic violence.

2019: Mediation Promotion

   – Promotion of mediation to amicably resolve custody disputes.

2020: Virtual Visitation Acceptance

   – Acknowledgment of virtual visitation as a means for non-custodial parents to stay connected.

2021: Military Deployment Consideration

   – Consideration of the impact of military deployment on custody arrangements.

2022: Child Support Alignment

   – Alignment of child custody and child support procedures for consistency.

2023: Relocation Guidelines

   – Introduction of guidelines for parents seeking to relocate with their child, emphasizing stability.

Delaware’s commitment to adapting child custody laws reflects its dedication to the well-being of children and families. Staying informed about these changes is crucial for parents and legal professionals navigating custody matters.

Guide to Child Custody Laws in Delaware

If you are a Delaware parent seeking custody of a child, you owe it to yourself to have the best information possible.  Child custody laws in Delaware allow courts to award custody to either parent or both parents, so you should understand the different types of custody available.  This guide will explain the types of custody available to Delaware parents so that you can continue doing research on the specific kind of custody you are seeking.

Parenting Plans and Mediation

Rather than having a judge issue a custody order, most parents in Delaware prefer to come to an agreement on their own—a cheaper and easier solution.  However, while child custody laws in Delaware allow parents to develop a parenting plan, not all parents see eye to eye about custody issues.

For these parents, the family court system will usually order mediation.  Mediation puts both parents in an informal setting with a third-party mediator who can keep the discussion constructive so that a parenting agreement can be constructed.  Mediation will generally be ordered for any parents with a dispute about custody unless one of the parents has committed acts of domestic violence.  Even if domestic violence has been found, mediation can be entered into according to child custody laws in Delaware, but only if the victim requests it.

Physical Custody

Child custody laws in Delaware allow for the division of physical custody (where a child lives) in several different ways.  Parents can generally agree to any sharing of physical custody that is acceptable to both of them and viewed as in the best interest of the child by the court.

If one parent is awarded sole or primary physical custody, generally the other parent will still have a right to regular contact with the child (more information on these child custody laws in Delaware can be found in the contact schedules section below).

Legal Custody

If a parent has legal custody of a child, this means that they have the ability to make decisions for that child pertaining to major life issues like recreation, education, healthcare, and religion.  Sometimes, one parent will be awarded sole custody, which allows that parent to make these decisions unilaterally, without the involvement of the other parent.  Child custody laws in Delaware require that the non-custodial parent be kept informed of these and other relevant decisions, but they do not need to be involved in the decision making process itself.

Joint legal custody requires both parents to work together to make decisions about their child’s health and well-being.  Joint legal custody will generally only be given to parents who can show an ability to work together well during their divorce and custody proceedings.

Contact Schedules

A contact, or visitation, schedule will be required by the court for non-custodial parents.  In most cases, visitation will include some overnight visits and often a longer visit during the summer months when a child is on school break.  Visitation may be in shorter periods with supervision in cases where one parent has a history of domestic violence.