How is best interests standard determined in child custody?

When parents go their separate ways, issues regarding child custody and support need to be dealt with before they can move forward. A phrase that they will hear often is the "best interests of the child" standard. What exactly does this mean? What factors do judges look at in order to fulfill this requirement?

One of the first requirements is to provide the children with consistency. Many children need the security of a routine, and keeping this going could factor into who receives custody. Even so, the courts understand that some changes are inevitable in a divorce or separation. How those changes will affect the children is also considered.

Safety is also a priority for the courts when entering custody orders. The court would not want to unwittingly jeopardize the safety of the children by awarding custody to a parent who may be violent or neglectful. In addition, courts look at the ability of each parent to provide for all of the children's needs whether physical or emotional.

This could include assessing the physical and mental status of each parent. The age of the children is also taken into consideration since younger children often need more care than older ones. Moreover, at a certain age, the court may consider his or her preference when determining custody.

Perhaps with some rudimentary understanding of what constitutes the best interests of the child in the eyes of the courts, the parties can develop a parenting plan that will fulfill these requirements and fulfill the needs of the family. The agreement that is made now will affect the future of the parties and their children for the foreseeable future. Creating such a balance may require the advice and assistance of a family law attorney experienced in creating such agreements.

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