What Does "The Best Interests Of The Child" Really Mean?

In your custody case, you may have heard the phrase "the best interests of the child." This is the standard a court is supposed to use to decide what is the right plan for a child in a custody case. 

Unfortunately, child custody law does not define this standard in exact terms. Instead, the judge considers a set of factors when deciding custody.

Parent-Child Relationships and Interactions

The court will review the relationships each parent has with the child, including how strong the bonds are and how involved the parents are in the child's life. They will also take a look at the past and potential futures of these relationships.

Naturally, the court also considers how well the parents interact with the child and with each other. If there are other people in the child's life who make a real impact — such as siblings — those relationships are also weighed.

The Child's Level of Adjustment

How well your child is doing in school and in life in general is an area of concern to the court. They will consider whether your child has friends in your neighborhood or at school, how well they socialize and how they are behaving for both parents.

The Physical and Mental Health of Everyone Involved

The physical and mental health of everyone involved in the custody case, including the child, plays a part. If you have a mental health history, work with a child custody attorney on your case. Having a mental health issue does not mean you can't be a parent, but it can affect the case if you are not following your doctor's orders, taking prescribed medications or receiving treatment.

Which Parent Is More Likely to Cooperate

If one parent is not willing to work with the other, the court will notice. This can come into play in the final custody decision. The court may view the uncooperative parent as being likely to withhold the child from the other parent, resulting in the uncooperative parent receiving less parenting time.

Any History of Child Abuse or Domestic Violence

A parent with a history of domestic violence or child abuse is automatically in a poor position to obtain custody. However, if this applies to you, work with a child custody attorney to help protect your rights to see your children.

There are other factors that come into play in your custody case, depending on your situation. If the court views your child as old or mature enough to hear from, for example, the judge will consider their wishes, too. When you decide to work with a custody attorney, openly discuss your situation and be honest so your attorney can plan a proper strategy.

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