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What does 'the best interests of the child' mean in court?

During a divorce and child custody proceedings, it is not uncommon to hear the courts stress the need to assure that the child's bests interests are always met. But what exactly do the courts look for when determining the best interests of the child?

There are several factors that are taken into consideration when determining who gets child custody. The courts will look at the character and well-being of each parent. This includes both their mental and physical health, whether either spouse has a history of domestic violence, a criminal record or a history of substance or alcohol abuse. They will also look to assure that a potential custodial parent will be competent and able to fulfill all the tasks and responsibilities associated with raising a child.

They also take the relationship that each parent has with their children very seriously. This means they will look at the role each parent plays in their child's upbringing and may even speak with the child or children to learn their own opinion regarding the relationship they have with either spouse. The courts want to assure a stable home environment to maximize that likelihood that the child will grow up happy and healthy.

Throughout the divorce process, regardless of what phase you are in, it is often helpful to have a strong and experienced attorney representing your side. Whether you are working to obtain child custody or visitation rights or have questions or concerns regarding paternity or fathers' rights, child support, alimony or property division, arming yourself with a dedicated and professional lawyer can make quite a difference. These decisions will have long term consequences, so it is not something that should be taken lightly.

Source: findlaw.com, "Focusing on the 'Best Interests' of the Child," Accessed June 29, 2017

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