Boise & Garden City

In Amber Alert case, you asked: How does child custody work?

Joshua Dundon and his two daughters, Jaylynn and Madison.
Joshua Dundon and his two daughters, Jaylynn and Madison.

A common question from online readers of the Statesman this week: Why did Joshua Dundon, accused of custodial interference for taking his two daughters to Nevada, have joint custody of them if he had recently voiced suicidal thoughts and had a history of drug use?

We can’t answer that specifically. Family law petitions involving minor children are sealed in Idaho, including the pending custody/child support case involving Dundon.

But in general, judges deciding child custody cases must look at many factors, with one main overriding consideration, Boise attorney Jon Cox said.

“The judge is guided by what’s in the best interests of the child. That’s their No. 1 concern,” said Cox, who is not involved in the case concerning Dundon’s children.

The law also allows a judge to weigh the wishes of the parents and the children, if the latter are considered mature enough to allow their wishes to be considered. The judge can also look at the relationship between the children and each of their parents, and between the children’s siblings.

Also factors: The character and circumstances of all the individuals involved, the need to promote continuity and stability in the life of the child. and whether one or both parents have a history of domestic abuse. (Online court records indicate the latter is not the case in this incident, and neither parent had sought a protection order.)

“It’s really a judgment call on what is in the child’s best interests,” Cox said.

A case can be reopened later on if circumstances change, according to the law.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @IDS_Sowell