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How do courts determine “the best interests of the child”?

If you are facing divorce, top priority will be helping your children adjust to this new chapter in their lives. There will be child custody and visitation issues to sort out, usually with input from the court.

In such matters, a judge will always make decisions based on the best interests of the child. What factors are involved?

Stability

One of the important considerations involves ensuring that the child has a stable home environment, especially when it is necessary for the child to live in two homes after the divorce. When developing a parenting plan, both parents should work to make this kind of transition as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Interactions

The court will want to know how a child interacts with family members such as grandparents, with extended family, teachers, other students and members of the community.

Adjustment

The court will examine how well a child is able to adjust to a new neighborhood, possibly a new school and new friends following a divorce. The child's age plays a role in his or her ability to handle relocation, if relocation is necessary.

Parental issues

There may be serious issues with the parents, such as a history of drug use, alcoholism, domestic violence or emotional abuse. If such problems come into play, a child’s best interests are on the line, and the court will make a determination that gives a child the best chance to enjoy the benefits of a caring parent and a stable home life.

Seeking solutions

Divorce is never easy, especially with respect to children. You want the best outcome in terms of childhood happiness that transitions into well-adjusted young adulthood. As long as you keep the best interests of the child in mind, just as the court does, you will lay the foundation for loving family relationships going forward and a future your children can look forward to.

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