What Are The Best Interests Of The Child?

If you are a divorcing parent, you will, sooner or later, hear the term "best interests of the child." It's easy to see why family law provisions, courts, and judges desire to single minor-aged children out. After all, divorce has the potential to visit all sorts of negative side-effects on the most innocent of parties. To get a more concrete idea of what this term means, read on.

Child Custody and Visitation

The above two issues are major parts of a divorcing couple's divorce agreement and it is these issues that the best interests of the child come into play. You might want to envision the best interests of the child as a goal to be achieved as well as the motivation for all decisions made concerning child custody, visitation, and child support. The courts view this concept as fostering the child's physical health, mental health, happiness, emotional development, and security from the time the parents decide to divorce till the child is either 18 years old or they graduate from college. The best interests of the child also mean that the child has a close relationship with each parent, regardless of who has primary custody.

Best Interests of the Child Factors

Each child will have their own unique needs, but the below might provide an idea of what the court views as falling into the best interests of the child category:

  • A stable home environment. For example, the child may feel more secure remaining in the family home and neighborhood.
  • The parent that has custody of half-siblings. For example, a child may have a close relationship with a half-brother or sister of one party.
  • Cultural and religious considerations.
  • Extended family relationships. For example, the child may be close to a grandparent.
  • Age and sex of the child.
  • If they are old enough, the wishes of the child.
  • The issues associated with a special needs child and which parent has been the primary caretaker of that child.
  • The relative fitness of the parents. For example, drug and alcohol abuse in one party, proof of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, etc. all send a red flag to the courts.
  • The parent who uses excessive disciplinary measures or inflicts emotional abuse upon the child.

A Holistic View

The court tends to review the above factors, and more, as a whole. There exists no checklist for the courts to use when determining the best interests of the child because each situation is as different as the child and the family situation. Asking yourself "is this in the best interest of my child?" can often help you predict what the court might do when it comes to custody, visitation, and child support issues. This provision is best summed up by saying that divorce issues that apply to minor children are not about you, they are about the child. Speak to your child custody attorney to learn more.

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