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What is the "best interests of the child" standard?

Parents in California constantly focus on the needs of their children, as many of the decisions made by parents can impact their children. Thus, the interests of a child are often kept in mind at all times. Divorce is no exception. The needs of a child must come first when it comes to making decisions regarding custody and support. However, the ups and downs of divorce can make it difficult to not let emotions get in the way. Because of that, the court may need to step in at times to ensure the best interests of the child are met when there is a dispute about child custody and/or visitation.

What is the "best interests of the child" standard? The ultimate goal of this standard is to foster and encourage the happiness, security, mental health, and emotional development of the child. By looking at certain factors, the court seeks to arrive at the best custody agreement for the child in question. In custody situations, courts will analyze factors such as the wishes of the child (if they are old enough) the mental and physical health of both parents, whether the child has special needs, and if so, how does each parent care for those needs, the religion and cultural considerations of the child, the need for a stable environment, other children involved and impacted by the custody arrangement, the opportunity for support from and interaction with extended family members, possible adjustments to school and community, the existence of domestic violence in the household, the use of excessive discipline or emotional abuse by a parent, as well as any evidence of drug or alcohol abuse by a parent.

The determination of the best interests of the child is based on the consideration and culmination of these and other factors. Whether it means a joint custody arrangement or one with one parent acting as the primary caregiver and other afforded visitation rights, the hope is that the custody arrangement will continually meet the needs and interests of the child.

Reaching a resolution to a child custody dispute can be extremely difficult. Parents may not see eye-to-eye, making it necessary for the court to step in. If you are dealing with a custody battle or any other family law problem, it is important to understand how you can best resolve the issue while also protecting your parental rights and the best interests of your children.

Source: FindLaw, "Focusing on the "Best Interests" of the Child," accessed July 16, 2017

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