It is important for divorcing parents to know how child custody is determined. The standard that is used to make all child custody decisions is what is in the best interests of the child but many parents may wonder what that is and how it is applied.
The bests interests of the child is used by the family law court to determine what child custody arrangement is best for the child. The best interests of the child focuses overall on a child custody arrangement that fosters the child's happiness, security, mental health and emotional development. It is the standard that is applied whether the parents are negotiating a child custody agreement to be approved by the family law court or if the family law court is making the child custody determination for the child.
Factors that are considered when determining what is in the best interests of the child include the wishes of the child in some circumstances; the age and sex of the child; 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 stable home environment; any adjustment to school and community; religious and cultural considerations; the custody arrangements of other children relevant to the child's custody arrangement; relationships with other household members; the opportunity to interact with extended family members; and any evidence of abuse.
What is in the best interests of the child is a standard that parents should not lose sight of when making and considering child custody arrangements. It helps guide both the family law court and parents to a child custody arrangement that is best for the child which is the paramount concern during child custody matters.