How Is a Child’s Best Interest Determined in a Family Law Case?
The child’s best interest is an important factor in many family law cases. But how is it determined, and what does it mean? Find out here.
Child’s Best Interests in a Child Custody Case
Whenever there is a child custody dispute, the child’s best interest is a term that will frequently be bandied about.
While there is no standard definition of a child’s interests, the term has generally become known as the deliberations by the court to determine what type of orders, actions, and services are best suited to take care of the child.
Whenever there is a child custody case, the court will usually make its determination by taking into account several factors. These factors are usually related to the ability to parent, the caregiver or parent’s circumstances, and other circumstances affecting his or her best interests, with the well-being and safety of the child being the ultimate goal. Child Welfare Information Gateway publishes the guidelines on how states determine the best interests.
Trying to win a child custody case as a parent or a primary caregiver can be a nerve-wracking experience. Mostly, in divorce cases, the parent who is awarded custody often gets the family home. Hence, we always advise that you work with a firm that focuses on family law to prepare better for the best interests determinations.
The Masterson Law office provides an initial consultation for your case. Over the years, our Missouri child custody lawyers have helped many clients secure a favorable resolution to their child custody cases, whether that is winning custody of their children or getting visitation rights.
Factors Included in the Best Interest of the Child
Child custody proceedings can often result in emotions running high, as parents will always find it heartwrenching thinking of spending time away from their child. Moreover, dealing with visitation decisions, child support, child care arrangements, and other legal aspects can also be confusing.
One of the most important things parents can do rather than dwelling on the worst-case scenario is to show that they have the best interests of the child’s physical and mental well-being at heart.
In such instances, it is always advisable to get a child custody attorney who knows the most effective strategies for demonstrating that you will provide the care and love the child needs and that you are active in the child’s life.
When awarding custody and making decisions on conservatorship, child support, visitation, and possession, the court will be out to evaluate what is in the child’s interest. The court will consider the child’s age, his needs, custody arrangement, and how close and loving relationship you have with the child.
When it comes to family law, especially in child custody proceedings, the focus will typically be on the child’s interests, including happiness and well-being is, the paramount concern. Overall, this means it is up to the court to make decisions on child support, visitation, and other matters to encourage and ensure a child’s:
What Is Considered Best Interest of Child?
Judges typically make their decisions about visitation and custody to encourage the happiness, emotional development, security, and mental health of a child. It is intended to ensure that the child grows up and becomes a well-adjusted person in adulthood.
In the past, the courts favored the mother when making decisions related to custody. However, most courts now recognize that the child’s interests are best served if they can get love and care from both parents.
Even though the opportunity to develop close bonds with both parents is deemed critical for the interests of the child, many parents will find it challenging to help the child develop a close relationship with the other parent.
Still, parents must try to make decisions that will be in the child’s best interests. This is because any decision the court makes, or you make will ultimately affect the parent-child relationship for years. Note that in nearly all instances, the courts will work in the best interests of the child standard.
If you have a case, arguing that you are best suited to the best interests of the child is always easier if you have an attorney who has done it before. It is more likely than not that the other parent will have an attorney working for them. This will mean you will be disadvantaged if you do not have one.
If you are in need of a family lawyer, you should contact the Masterson Law office, as we have family lawyers well-versed in child custody cases. We make use of our experience to help fight for custody and have, over the years, won many favorable outcomes for our clients.
Best Interest of Child Checklist
The states have come up with a checklist of factors that the courts will consider in any child custody case. Understanding how judges make custody decisions will help you know what to expect when you go to court for your child custody cases.
The specific factors that courts take into account when determining the child’s best interests include:
- The past, present, and future relationship between each parent and the child in instances of divorce
- Whether one parent has been previously convicted of falsely reporting child abuse or neglect
- The child’s interaction with siblings, parents, and other family members and how this significantly impacts their best interests
- Whether the parent complies with the court’s educational program
- The parenting skills of each parent
- Whether one parent made use of coercion or duress to compel an agreement on parenting time and decision making
- The child’s development and how well they are adjusted to their community, school, or home
- Whether domestic violence or child abuse has occurred
- The child’s wishes, if they are of suitable age to provide their own opinion.
- Whether one parent willfully lied to the court to be awarded litigation costs, delayed the court cases, or tried to influence the judge to rule in their favor
- Which parent is more likely to facilitate enough visitation and contact between the child and the estranged parent
And that’s not just it. The court will also consider the home environment and would also analyze if there could be any negative impact of it on the child’s life.
By working with the lawyers at the Masterson Law firm, you will have a dedicated legal advocate by your side to decode the information and checklists the courts will be used to determine custody. This will make you more prepared to put up a good case on why you are best suited to get child custody in the interest of the child.
Child Custody Best Interest Factors
There are several factors that the judge will typically look into during best interest determinations. In modern family court, these factors are usually significant concerns for both parents.
Some of the things they will look at include any incidence of neglect, alcohol or drug use, emotional abuse, physical violence, or sexual abuse. It will also look at whether the parent actively committed such acts against the child, the other parent, or another party.
Once they hear concerns about the abuse and safety of the child, they will also review evidence and testimony on who was responsible for ensuring the needs of the child were met. Some of the things they will be looking at include:
Getting the child ready for school in the mornings
Taking the child to school
Picking the child up from school
Helping the child with homework
Making meals for the child
Caring for the child when they are at home
Arranging for playdates
Bathing and getting the child ready for bed
Putting the child to bed
Making medical appointments for the child
Taking the child for their medical appointments
Attending teacher-parent conferences
Ensuring the child takes part in extracurricular activities
Taking care of the child when they are sick
The parent’s work schedule
The special needs of the child
Whether any of the parents intend to move out of the area
Issues with alcoholism or drugs
Which party is more willing to work with the other parent in the interest of the child
Particular concerns about the child’s safety with family members and a parent
If the responsibilities or duties recently changed and the reasons for that.
We always advise that you contact an attorney as soon as you believe that you may have to fight a child custody case. When you work with the family law attorneys at Masterson Law, you will be informed of your legal options, including what to do to put yourself in a better position to win the case if it comes to that.
What Do Judges Look for in Child Custody Cases?
In some instances, the court will employ third parties to assist in the determination of the best interest of the child. Some of the people that may be employed include therapists, custody evaluators, and psychological evaluators.
Some courts may employ one of the following professionals to determine what is in the children’s best interest in the custody battle.
A guardian ad litem has the ultimate goal of representing the child’s best interests. They can be an attorney or just any other person.
An amicus attorney will offer legal services to protect the best interest of the child by offering advice to the court.
An attorney ad litem is a person who advocates for the child’s interest according to what the latter believes is in the best interest.
In a custody evaluation, an evaluator will typically meet the child. Over several hours or days, they will observe how the child interacts with each parent. Once they have gathered enough data based on interviews of witnesses, testing, review of documents, and observations, they will make their recommendations to the court.
In some instances, the parties will be asked to undergo family therapy, counseling, and sometimes co-parenting.
How to Convince a Judge in Family Court
When the court issues the visitation and custody orders, the judge will typically include a record of the factors they took into account in their decision.
If you need to convince the judge that you have the ability to parent according to the best interests of the child, you will be best positioned with the help of a family law attorney. The attorneys at Masterson Law have been involved in all manner of child custody cases over the years.
Contact our family lawyer today, and we may just be able to enhance your case for winning a favorable custody outcome in court.