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Child Custody: Considering The Best Interests Of The Child In Custody Cases

The “best interests” of the child is the overriding focus of any child custody case, regardless of whether a family court judge makes the custody decision or the attorney and the parents of the child resolve the matter through agreement and negotiation out of the court premises. The term “best interests” of the child has a particular meaning when it comes to deciding for kids in family law.


In this article, we share all about the standard of a child’s “best interests” and all the factors that are considered by the court when this standard is applied.


The Best Interests Of The Child In Custody Cases

When it comes to child custody cases, the best interests of a child means that all the decisions and discussions regarding visitation and custody are made keeping the ultimate goal of encouraging and fostering the child’s security, happiness, emotional development, and mental health into adulthood. Typically, it is in the best interests of the child to maintain a loving and close relationship with both parents. That said, it is not always practical to maintain such a relationship in a child custody dispute.


When it comes to a custody conflict, the more important thing to keep in mind is that all the decisions must be made in the best interests of the child. The choices made by you or the court will impact the development of your child for years to come in a number of ways.


Factors That Determine The Best Interests Of The Child In A Custody Case

Although this standard of a child’s best interests can sometimes be challenging to define, some common factors that determine this standard in a custody case are as follows:


  • The child’s wishes if he/she is old enough to express a preference

  • If a child has any special needs and the way in which each parent will attend to those needs

  • The physical and mental health of both parents

  • The sex and age of the child

  • Cultural and/or religious considerations

  • Adjustments to the community and school

  • The need to have a stable home environment

  • Evidence of sex/child abuse or parental drug/alcohol issues

  • Evidence of domestic violence

  • Parental use of emotional or excessive disciplinary abuse

  • Opportunity for interaction with the extended family and support of these people (such as grandparents)

  • Interrelationships and interactions with other household members

  • Any other child/children that affect the current custody arrangement


It is important to remember here that courts look at multiple factors in child custody cases and follow a holistic approach to decide the best interests of a child. They determine what’s best for a child by considering the circumstances of the child, the parents, or the caregiver and their capacity to ensure the happiness and safety of the child.


Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Who Gets The Custody Of A Child

In an ideal world, separating or divorcing parents would set aside all their personal differences to together decide the best option for the custody of their child. However, things don’t always pan out so smoothly. This leaves things up to the court to decide what’s best for the child. Courts make this custody decision after considering a full array of factors, including the relationship of the child with the parents, their income, and household stability.


Following are some commonly asked questions about child custody to make things clearer for you:


1. My husband and I have recently filed for divorce. How will the custody of our children be decided?

“Who will get custody?” is the immediate question after a couple files for separation or divorce. The answer to this question is determined by the process followed by all the parties involved in the custody dispute. Parents who reach an agreement on child visitation and custody out of the court premises decide the matter themselves with the input of counselors, mediators, or attorneys. On the flip side, if the parents in a custody situation are not able to negotiate and reach an agreement, they resort to court proceedings where a family court judge makes the custody decision in the child’s best interests.


2. How does the family court judge decide which parent gets custody if my case goes to court?

When it comes to deciding who will get child custody, courts consider several factors but the “best interests” of the child are always their main consideration. That said, this standard can sometimes be challenging to ascertain. Typically, the fundamental factor here is which parent has taken the role of the “primary caretaker” of the child since his/her birth. If the children in question are old enough, courts usually take into account their preference when making a decision.


3. How does a family court judge decide who a child’s primary caretaker is in a custody dispute?

Psychologists have forever been stressing the importance of a good bond between a child and the primary caretaker. This is why the factor of a “primary caretaker” holds relevance in custody cases. The emotional bond between a child and the primary caretaker is integral to the successful passage of the child through his/her stages of development. This dynamic can be adversely affected after the divorce, which is why courts tend to prefer the primary caretaker of a child in custody cases to ensure the child’s psychological and emotional stability. A family court judge decides who a child’s primary caretaker is by focusing on the direct care-taking responsibilities such as dressing and grooming, meal preparation and planning, the teaching of writing & reading, and health care arrangements.


Hire The Right Attorney For Your Custody Case

If your custody case is currently being decided in front of a family court judge, working with an experienced attorney is your best bet as it will allow you to ensure the well-being of your child within the constraints of the legal system. If you haven’t hired a competent lawyer yet, consider getting in touch with us at Reyes & Schroeder Associates, P.C. We are dedicated to keeping families together and protecting your rights. Call us at (323) 553-1541 for a consultation today!