Insights Into How Our Legal System Works

Insights Into How Our Legal System Works

What The "Best Interest Of The Child" Means For Child Custody Cases

by Yolanda Lane

Children evoke strong emotions, and those going through a divorce can be especially vulnerable to issues about child custody. It's not surprising that issues that concern minor children are among the most contentious and volatile to appear in family court, and if you and your spouse are not able to decide these issues on your own a judge will decide. Family court judges use several means of evaluating the fitness of a custodial parent, but the guiding principle is always to do what is in the best interest of the child. An understanding of what that means could help lessen your stress and prepare you for this ruling, so read on.

Age of the Child

Routinely placing an infant or young child automatically in the custody of their mother has fallen by the wayside. As mothers have joined the workforce in increasing numbers, and many fathers now choose to be the primary caregiver for their children, the opportunities for both parents having an equal chance at custody has increased. It should be noted, however, that family court judges still tend to favor the mother when it comes time to decide custody. Additionally, nursing mothers are nearly always given custody for practical reasons.

The Family Home

The parent who is awarded the family home when property is divided in divorce will often also end up with physical custody of the minor child. Judges consider the upheaval and trauma of divorce and it's effect on children to be substantial enough, without the child also having to adjust to a new home, a new neighborhood and a new school. Additionally, the judge will look closely at whatever living arrangements the potential custodial parent will be providing for the child. While it may be practical and financially necessary for you to room temporarily with a friend in an apartment, make sure the living environment is safe, healthy and appropriate for your children if you plan to seek custody.

The Spousal Relationship

You may be divorcing for irreconcilable differences, but when it comes to how you treat your ex in front of your children, tread carefully. Part of being a good parent means putting aside your own emotions for the good of the child and their relationship with the other parent. Negative snipes and manipulative behavior is frowned upon and will not win you points with the judge. Going further, the judge will look favorably upon the parent who is able to ensure that the child will have a good relationship with both parents, regardless of the reasons for your divorce.

The Child's Wishes

Some states consider the wishes of the child when it comes to deciding custody. Usually the child must be at least old enough to express a clear and thoughtful opinion, such as those who fall into the "tween and teen" category. When necessary, the judge will order a third party mental health professional to perform an evaluation on the child to ascertain the child's opinion and to investigate other factors, such as the parent-child relationship.

For more information about how judges decide the best interest of the child for custody purposes, consult with a family law attorney. Contact a law firm, such as Koth & Gregory PC Law Firm, for more information.   


About Me

Insights Into How Our Legal System Works

Hello, I'm Christina Miller. Have you ever been fascinated with why the law works the way it does? Ever since I was in junior high, I had an intense interest in anything related to our legal system, whether it be a crime drama on television, a judge show or a legal case covered on the news. I followed it all. As time progressed, I began learning about how the actual legal system worked and not just the fictionalized version of our legal system. This has lead me to start writing my own blog posts about law that I hope will help others.