The “best interests of the child” is a child custody standard that is essential for parents to be familiar with and to understand because it is used to guide child custody decisions. Child custody decisions are based on the best interests of the child standard. Whether parents are developing their own child custody arrangement or need the family law court to help them develop their child custody arrangement, it is important to keep what is in the best interests of the child in mind. The “best interests of the child” means that the family law court will seek a child custody arrangement that promotes the child’s happiness, mental health, emotional development and security.
What is in the best interests is evaluated by considering a variety of factors. Factors that may be considered to determine what is in the best interests of the child include: the age and sex of the child; the preference of the child, when appropriate; any special needs of the child and the ability of the parents to meet those needs; the physical and mental health of the parents; the need for a continued and stable home environment; the child’s relationships with other members of the household; the opportunity for the child to interact with extended family members; any other child custody arrangement that would have an impact on the child; religious and cultural considerations; adjustments to school and community; and any history of abuse.
These factors are used to determine what child custody arrangement will foster the child’s overall well-being and best interests. Because child custody issues can be stressful for parents and families, it is helpful for parents to be prepared for what to expect from their child custody process.