How does the court determine the best interests of a child?

Child custody can be heavily contested during a divorce or separation. It can be heartbreaking to learn that the court will determine how much time you will spend with your child going forward. If you are litigating the custody of your child, it is obviously important that you understand how the court arrives at a custody judgment.

All child custody decisions hinge on the doctrine of the best interests of the child. But what exactly does this mean?

Understanding the doctrine of the child’s best interests

There is no straightforward definition of “the best interests of the child” because every child is different. That said, the court makes custody decisions based on what it believes to be best for the child’s short-term and long-term well-being and safety. Some of the factors the court considers when determining the best interests of the child include:

  • The relationship between the child and each parent (past, present and potential future relationships)
  • How well the child is capable of adjusting to a new home, school and community
  • How the child interacts with siblings and/or other household members
  • Whether the child is old enough to have an opinion on the parent they want to live with
  • Each parent’s mental and physical conditions
  • Which parent is most likely to encourage visitation and a meaningful relationship with both parents
  • A history of violence and abuse from either parent, including previous convictions for child abuse and neglect
  • Whether either parent has a problem with complying with court orders (including custody and child support orders and educational programs)

Protecting your parenting rights

Every fit parent has a right to be involved in their child’s upbringing. Find out how you can protect your child’s best interests and parenting rights while litigating child custody to better ensure that your own parent-child relationship remains sufficiently protected.