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What do the 'best interests of the child' mean?

In custody cases here in California and elsewhere, you hear how the family law courts must make decisions based on the best interests of the child. But what does that even mean?

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child under Article 3 states the "best interests of the child as a primary consideration in all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies."

The problem with defining the child's best interests is that it is often subjective and may be at counterpoints with the parents' and children's own wishes.

As a jumping off point for the courts, they frequently ponder whether the children are able to share meaningful relationships with both parents. They also should not be subjected to the adults' conflicts or any family violence. The courts look at the child's routines when with both parents. Do they have stability in both homes, and are their physical needs met? What about financial stability? Will the child have to cope with evictions or utility shut-offs while living with one parent?

If you are fighting with your ex for primary custody of your children, you must be able and available to meet all of your children's needs. If you fall short, you face the real likelihood of custody being awarded to your child's other parent.

Speak candidly with your Pleasanton attorney. Let them know of any concerns that you have that could become a barrier to your obtaining the custody arrangements you prefer for your child. The two of you can brainstorm ideas about how to resolve these matters satisfactorily.

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John T. Chamberlin, Attorney at Law
699 Peters Avenue
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Pleasanton, CA 94566

Phone: 925-271-5650
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