When it comes to divorce, custody decisions are often the most challenging to make. Even when parents are in agreement regarding major issues, they often have difficulty when it comes to matters involving their children.
While tempers can flare during divorces, children must remain at the center of the proceedings to ensure their health and wellness. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, courts are most concerned about the best interests of the child when making custody decisions. Here are a few things to keep in mind about this important concept.
What does “best interests of the child” actually mean?
There is no set standard for best interests regarding custody decisions. Instead, courts look for ways to maintain a child’s optimum well-being and safety. Additionally, different states can use different factors when making determinations. However, many of these factors overlap from state to state.
Which factors will the court look at?
Custody courts typically consider factors like:
Capacity for basic care
Can the parent provide food, shelter, and clothing? Will the child receive proper medical care while in the custody of the parent? Children must have their basic needs met to ensure a healthy and happy upbringing.
How is the child’s relationship with other family members in the home? Does the child have a tight emotional bond with siblings? If so, the court might hesitate to make the child leave that home to live in the other parent’s residence.
Mental and physical health of each parent
Is the parent relatively healthy mentally and physically? Keep in mind that the presence of a health issue does not make a parent unfit unless that issue prevents them from providing essential care to children.
Mental and physical health needs of the child
Does the parent have any complex health needs? Is the parent capable of meeting these needs in a way that benefits the child? Once again, the child’s health and wellness supersede other considerations when it comes to custody.
The court prefers to award shared custody whenever possible, as shared custody allows a child to form a loving bond with both parents. However, the court takes instances of abuse and neglect very seriously and will usually prevent one parent from having equal access to the child.