Focusing on the "Best Interests" of the Child
Whether parents and their attorneys resolve a child custody matter out-of-court through negotiation and agreement, or the custody decision is made by a family court judge, the overriding focus in any custody case should always be on a solution that is in the child's "best interests."
The Child's "Best Interest" in Custody Cases
In the context of child custody cases, focusing on the child's "best interest" means that all custody and visitation discussions and decisions are made with the ultimate goal of fostering and encouraging the child's happiness, security, mental health, and emotional development into young adulthood. Generally speaking, it is often in the child's best interest 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 is crucial that you not lose sight of the importance of making decisions in the best interest of your children. The choices you make now (or the decisions a court makes for you) will affect your children's development, as well as your relationship with them, in a number of crucial ways for years to come.
What Factors Determine the Child's "Best Interest"?
Although the "best interest" standard can be hard to define in some situations, some factors are common in "best interest" analyses in most custody situations:
Wishes of the child (if old enough to capably express a reasonable preference);
Mental and physical health of the parents;
Religion and/or cultural considerations;
Need for continuation of stable home environment;
Support and opportunity for interaction with members of extended family of either parent;
Interaction and interrelationship with other members of household;
Adjustment to school and community;
Age and sex of child;
Parental use of excessive discipline or emotional abuse; and
Evidence of parental drug, alcohol or sex abuse.