Best Interests of the Child: The Key to Deciding Child Custody Cases

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In any child custody case, the court decision always focuses on the “best interests” of the child. This is a great consideration whether an out-of-court settlement has been reached by both parents and their lawyers or a custody decision is made by a family court. What do the child’s best interests involve? Read on to learn more about how custody decisions are made based on this approach.

Essentially, the best interests of the child means that all discussions and decisions regarding the custody and visitation of a child are made with an ultimate goal: promoting and nurturing the security, physical and mental health, happiness, and emotional development of the child. Usually and ideally, it is in the best interest of the child to keep a close and healthy relationship with both parents. However, maintaining such a relationship can be difficult in some cases, and this can get in the way of resolving a custody dispute. If you are caught in the middle of a custody conflict, it is important that you focus on making decisions based on the best interest of your children. This will definitely affect your children’s lives and your relationship with them in the future.

There is no standard definition when it comes to a child’s best interests. To have a clear idea of what the best interest of a child really entails, it pays to know the factors that are taken into consideration in many custody cases.

• Physical and mental health of the parents
• Age and sex of child
• Wishes of the child if he or she is of the right age
• Religious considerations
• The relationship with & support from extended family of each parent
• Proof of alcohol, drug, or sexual abuse of each parent
• Emotional abuse or discipline from parents
• Stability of the home environment of each parent
• The child’s adjustment to community and school

The wishes of the child regarding his or her custody have a huge bearing in any custody decision. These preferences can affect the court decision as to who will get the custody of the child. However, it still depends on the state where the case is being heard. Under particular circumstances, some states allow the child to have a say in the hearings. In other states, the courts have the discretion to determine how much relevance it will put on the child’s preference regarding his or her custody.

The child must be legally competent to testify in court, meaning he or she understands what the child custody hearings are all about and knows the difference between truth and lies. When a child testifies in court, the judge does not directly ask the child if he or she would want to live with the father or the mother. Rather, the child is asked in a conversational manner to talk about life in school and home.

Oftentimes, the courts appoint a lawyer to represent the child. This setup allows the child to participate in the hearings without the unnecessary stress and tension of the courtroom.

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