When it comes to family law matters like custody and visitation, courts prioritize the best interests of the child over everything else. Determining what is in the child’s best interest is a complex process that involves evaluating numerous factors. In this article, we will explore what factors are considered and how they are evaluated when determining the best interest of the child.
What Does “Best Interest of the Child” Mean?
The best interest of the child is a standard used by courts to make decisions about children’s welfare. This standard aims to ensure that the children’s physical, emotional, and mental health and overall wellbeing are the primary concerns in the decision-making process. Custody arrangements, visitation schedules, and other family law matters all rely on establishing what is in the child’s best interest.
Factors Considered When Determining Best Interest of the Child
There are a variety of factors that courts take into account when evaluating the best interests of a child. Some of the most common factors include:
1. The mental and physical health of the parents and the child
2. The child’s age and developmental needs
3. Any history of abuse or neglect by either parent
4. The child’s preference, if they are old enough to express it
5. Each parent’s living situation and ability to provide for the child’s basic needs like food and shelter
6. Each parent’s willingness to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent
7. The child’s school or educational needs
8. The child’s relationship with each parent, as well as extended family members.
9. Any history of substance abuse or addiction by either parent
10. The proximity of each parent’s home to the child’s school and other activities
Evaluating the Factors and Determining the Best Interest of the Child
Judges evaluate these factors by looking at all the evidence and testimony provided by each parent and their respective attorneys. Judges try to be as objective as possible when evaluating the evidence and ensuring they follow the law.
Some judges may appoint professionals to help assess the child’s best interests. For example, a mental health professional may be appointed to offer their insight into the child’s best interests. Additionally, a guardian ad litem (GAL) may be appointed to investigate the child’s situation and give the judge a report on their findings.
Once the judge has evaluated the evidence and assessed the child’s best interests, they will make a ruling. The ruling will typically include a custody and visitation order reflecting what is determined to be in the child’s best interests.
Determining what is in the best interest of the child is the most critical consideration in custody and visitation matters. It is a complex process that takes into account numerous factors to ensure the child’s physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing is the top priority. By evaluating evidence and considering the child’s unique needs, courts strive to create a custody and visitation arrangement that is best for the child.
The Family Law Act exists to serve the best interest of the child when determining custody and visitation.
However, it can be hard at times for a family court to determine exactly what visitation schedule might suit the child’s best interests.
To try to limit the confusion about visitations, the Family Law Act devised a list of basic ground rules involving visitation and custody that should be considered in every case. These guidelines are followed as carefully as possible.
Parents who get along with each other definitely help in working towards the best interest of a child, but unfortunately, there are many times when that does not happen.
The family court takes over when parents cannot agree on a child visitation schedule that is mutually acceptable. When the family court is making a visitation schedule, they have two primary considerations as well as many alternate considerations that are taken into mind.
The two primary considerations are allowing the children to spend a good amount of time with each parent during visitation and making sure that the children are safe. This is why a parent’s visitation rights can be terminated or limited to supervised visits if the court finds the parent to be unfit.
There are other factors that are given thought when the family court decides on visitations schedules. If the child is old enough, their thoughts on the visitations and what the schedule should be are considered.
A child’s relationship with each parent is taken into account when setting a visitation schedule. They also look at the child’s environment and living conditions with each parent.
A court will take into account which of the parents has maintained a closer relationship with the child. Visitation schedules that force a child to stay at a parent’s house that they are not too familiar with, may not be a desirable situation.
A family court also looks at the relationship that the parents have with each other. If there have been any emotionally or physically abusive instances, the court will be likely to take that into account when creating a visitation schedule.
If both parents are flexible and treat each other with respect, then the judge will be more willing to allow generous visitations to each parent. Any incidents that have occurred since the divorce or separation, may also be taken into account.
It is in the best interest of everyone to see the child happy and healthy. While a parent can fight a visitation order that they do not feel is fair, they should think about whether they are fighting visitations for the rights reasons.