Child custody can be an emotional topic for many parents. Understanding how child custody decisions are reached and resolved can potentially help minimize conflict during the child custody process and provide for more pleasant outcomes related to common child custody disputes and concerns. Parents going through the child custody process may have heard the phrase in the best interests of the child and may have wondered what that refers to.
In general, what is in the best interests of the child is the guiding principle when the family court makes child custody determinations. It should also be the guiding focus for parents when negotiating child custody concerns. What is in the child's best interest refers to making child custody and visitation decisions that help ensure the child's happiness, security, mental and emotional health and development and overall well-being. The court considers a variety of factors when determining what is in the best interests of the child.
Factors the court considers include the mental and physical health of the parents; any special needs the child has and the ability of the parents to meet those needs; the need to maintain a stable home environment for the child; the opportunity for interaction with members of the child's extended family; the child's interaction and relationship with other members of the family; other children impacted by the child custody arrangement; the child's adjustment to its school and community; religious and cultural considerations; the age and sex of the child; the wishes of the child; and if there is any evidence of abuse or drug or alcohol abuse by the parents.
There are a number of factors the court considers to help determine what is in the best interests of the child and to achieve that goal when making child custody decisions. It is helpful for parents to be familiar with those factors as well and maintain that same focus when approaching child custody concerns.
Source: Family.findlaw.com, "Focusing on the 'Best Interests' of the Child," Accessed Jan. 12, 2017