Put bluntly, divorcing your spouse, or leaving your significant other is an emotional nightmare. When children are involved, however, the process becomes that much more difficult. Having an experienced Matrimonial or Family Law attorney by your side to help you understand what the Court looks for when making custody determinations before you begin the process is a must.
Whether litigation custody before a Supreme Court Justice in your Divorce proceeding or before a Family Court Jude, the overriding focus in any custody case begins and ends with the child’s “best interests.” This term has a particular meaning in family law when making arrangements for children.
The Child’s Best Interests in Custody Cases
In the context of child custody cases, focusing on the child’s “best interests” means that all custody and visitation discussions and decisions are made to foster and encourage the child’s happiness, security, mental health, and emotional development into young adulthood. Generally speaking, it’s often in the child’s best interests to maintain a close and loving relationship with both parents, but the practicalities of promoting and maintaining such relationships can be the main challenge in resolving a child custody dispute.
In any custody conflict, it’s crucial that you not lose sight of the importance of making decisions in the best interests of your children. The choices you make now (or the decisions a court makes for you) will affect your child’s development, as well as your relationship with them, in several crucial ways for years to come.
What Factors Determine the Child’s Best Interests?
Although the best interests standard can be hard to define in some situations, some common factors are part of this analysis in most custody situations, such as the following:
- The pre-existing custodial arrangement (i.e., who is the primary caretaker of the child);
- The wishes of the child (if old enough to capably express a reasonable preference);
- The mental and physical health of the parents;
- Any special needs a child may have and how each parent takes care of those needs;
- Religious and/or cultural considerations;
- The need for continuation of stable home environment;
- Other children whose custody is relevant to this child’s custody arrangement;
- Support and opportunity for interaction with members of the extended family of either parent (such as grandparents);
- Interactions and interrelationships with other members of the household;
- Adjustments to school and community;
- The age of the child;
- the overall quality of each parent’s home environment;
- Whether there is a pattern of domestic violence in the home;
- Parental use of excessive discipline or emotional abuse; and
- Evidence of parental drug, alcohol, or child abuse
Remember, courts don’t just look at one factor, but instead take a more holistic approach. Their best interests determinations are generally made after considering several factors related to the child’s circumstances and the parent or caregiver’s circumstances and capacity to parent, with the child’s ultimate safety and happiness being the paramount concern.
Find the Right Attorney for Your Child Custody Case
Even though you understand what’s in the best interests of your child, ultimately the court will have the final say. The best way to both express your concerns about your child’s well-being and work within the constraints of the court system is to work with an attorney who is familiar with child custody cases. The attorneys at Barrows Levy PLLC can help you. Call us today for a free, confidential consultation.