Best interests of a child: What does it mean?
If you are fighting with your ex over child-related matters in court, the primary focus will generally be on what is in your child’s best interests. However, parents may not agree with each other or the courts on what this means.
How the courts see the issue
In the eyes of the courts, solutions that are in a child’s best interests include those that promote and enhance the child’s health, safety and welfare.
These solutions can take countless different forms, but factors the courts consider might include:
- Where a child wants to live
- The extent to which each parent is involved in a child’s life
- Where a child is safest
- Parental cultural and religious beliefs
- Whether a child has step-siblings
- Parental capabilities
These factors can help courts decide what arrangement best supports a child’s wellbeing and happiness.
On the other end of this, there are factors that the courts typically do not consider when assessing a child’s best interests. For instance, California courts do not consider parents’ sex, gender identity or sexual orientation when evaluating a child’s best interests.
Assessing best interests yourself
Even if you agree with the courts’ definition and interpretation of a child’s best interests in general, the issue can be thornier when it comes to your rights and your child.
Your own experiences and feelings shape your thoughts on child custody and what is in your child’s best interests. And these do not always align with the courts. Thus, it can be preferable to determine custody and visitation matters yourself with the other parent.
Reaching agreements outside of court allows you to have more control over the outcome. However, you will want to ensure arrangements are safe and help your child feel loved and supported mentally, physically and financially.
When parties disagree
While reaching agreements together can be preferable in many situations, it is not always possible. Such could be the case if parents do not agree on or cannot determine what is in a child’s best interests.
Under these circumstances, professionals can play a vital role. Child custody specialists, psychiatrists and attorneys are among those who can help parents navigate and resolve these cases.
No matter how you might resolve your child custody and visitation matter, the priority should be to protect your child and give them the best opportunity to be safe and happy.