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The Principle Of The “Best Interest Of The Child” During Custody Evaluation

Children are the first victims of domestic violence, emotional and sexual abuse.

Whether a child custody matter is resolved by legal professionals or out of a court of law, the main goal is to find a solution that protects the child’s best interests.  The principle of ‘best interests is mainly used to resolve family disputes resulting from divorce or separation. Administrative authorities ensure that the unique best interests of a child are considered when making recommendations.

While handling custody cases, protecting a child’s “best interests” means that all visitations and custody discussions are geared towards the ultimate goal of securing the child’s mental health, happiness, emotional development, security, and social wellbeing.

In most cases, children are innocent and would like to maintain a healthy relationship with both parents. However, parenting after divorce makes it extremely daunting for children to bond with both parents. In most cases, parents fight over the custody of their children after separation or divorce. Little do parents know that their choices have a significant impact on their child’s development.

Factors That Determine The ‘Best Interests Of A Child

custody is granted to the parent living in the family home

Parents Living Situation

When determining a child custody dispute, a judge has to consider each parent’s living condition. In most cases, custody is granted to the parent living in the family home. Granting custody rights to the parent living in the family home ensures children’s continuity and stability in their lives. Alternatively, the parent with custody of children might be granted rights to live in the family home.

For instance, if a parent lives with a friend after divorce or separation, the court will unlikely grant them primary custody during child custody determination. Also, physical health, mental health, and financial status play a significant role when determining the custody arrangement. The proximity of a parent’s home to their spouses may also influence a judge’s decision. The closer parents are, the more likely a judge will order joint custody. Also, the “best interests” may be defined by the proximity of a parent’s home to school and children’s social activities.

Age of Children is a Primary Consideration

Although the “tender doctrine” is considered vague, most judges have it that minor children should live with their mothers. Custody of a nursing baby automatically goes to the mother unless under special conditions such as child abuse or mental incapacitation of the mother.

The Willingness Of Partners To Co-Parent

A judge will examine whether one is a cooperative parent before formulating a parenting schedule and living arrangements for the children. The judge will also want to know whether one parent is a bad mouth or can interfere with the other parent’s visitation rights. The most cooperative parent is likely to have an edge when determining custody of a child. Parents who try to alienate children from the other parent are likely not to get primary custody.

Sexual Orientation

 Sexual orientation only comes into play if parents are of the same gender. Some states restrain family courts from using sexual orientation when determining visitation and custody matters. In states where courts are allowed to consider the sexual orientation of parents, parents of the same gender may be forbidden from exposing children to a “gay lifestyle.”  Besides, parents can be denied contact with their children if they are of the same sexual orientation.

Children Preferences Depending on the Relationship with Parents

 As the name suggests, older children are given a chance to make their own choices on matters concerning visitation and custody. The kid’s views are essential in helping the courts of law determine the best custodial parent.

The Bond Between Child And Parents Before Divorce Or Separation

 In some instances, parents who haven’t been involved in children’s upbringing suddenly develop a desire to spend considerable time with kids after separation. Sometimes, the desire is sincere, and a family court will respect it, especially if the parent is dedicated to staying with kids after a breakup.  In such a situation, a judge will have to conduct thorough screening to ensure that the sudden desire to stay with children is not primarily geared to win out the other partner.

Continuity And Stability

As mentioned earlier, courts-based child custody places great emphasis on continuity and stability.  According to child psychologists, introducing more change on top of traumatic divorce transitions takes a toll on kids’ mental wellbeing.  Therefore, a family court is likely to prevent a major shift in visitation schedule or custody to protect the child’s wellbeing.

Abuse or Neglect

If there is compelling evidence that a parent has neglected a child, a family court may limit parenting time. Since every case is unique, the judge may consider other factors when deciding primary custody of children of divorce.

capacity to parent for parents seeking child custody

Capacity to Parent for Parents Seeking Child Custody

Besides protecting the kid’s mental health, courts ensure that the parent requesting primary custody can meet the kid’s mental needs, financial needs, including children’s food, child care routines, shelter, clothing, education, and parental guidance.

When both parents are capable and willing to take physical custody, the court may order a custody evaluation to determine the parent who can foster a more loving relationship with kids.

Factors Against The Principle Of Child’s Best Interest

Some factors may be against the best interests of a child. For instance, moving arrangements may impact a child’s life negatively. If possible, it is recommendable for a child to remain in the same neighborhood and school.

That’s said, these factors may be re-considered if the parent granted physical custody interferes with the other parent’s visitation rights.

Even when a parent is granted primary custody, the other parent has visitation rights. Arrangements for children’s custody allow each parent to maintain a robust and loving relationship with their children.

When is Relocating a Viable Option for Families Going through Divorce?

Although relocating defies the principle of continuity, a judge may order relocation, especially to allow a child to attend a better school. If one parent demonstrates to a court of law that relocation will provide access to a support system or child care, moving may be the best option.

Courts consider all aspects of a child when determining child custody. Besides looking at whether a parent is fit, the court also looks at whether a child has the opportunity of leading a better life.

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Terry Sacia

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