What does ‘best interests of the child’ really mean?

On Behalf of | Nov 9, 2022 | Child Custody

Any family legal matter involving children will primarily focus on solutions that are in the best interests of the kids. However, this can mean different things to different people, so it can help to know what the “best interests of the child” means in the legal context. 

What the law says

In the eyes of the law, the best interests of a child is an arrangement that “best maintains a child’s emotional growth, health and stability, and physical care.”

Determining what this means can involve considering several factors, including:

  • A child’s age
  • The relationship between each parent and the child
  • Religious views
  • Cultural backgrounds
  • Any history of abuse or violence
  • A child’s physical and mental needs

When you or the courts are weighing issues like parenting time or living arrangements, these are the factors you must consider when making decisions.

We can’t agree. What now?

On the surface, the “best interests of the child” standard may seem straightforward, but you and your child’s other parent may clash regarding the practical details of a parenting plan.

You might disagree on a child’s education, lifestyle and adherence to cultural norms; you may not like how the other person parents or agree on where a child should live.

Outside opinions can become necessary if you do not see eye-to-eye on parenting matters and what is best for your child. You might seek guidance from:

  • Custody specialists
  • Religious leaders
  • Counselors
  • Medical professionals

These and other parties can provide insight into a child that you may not have or be able to see objectively, or they may have medically-relevant knowledge of what your child needs to be healthy. 

Talking to your child can also open your eyes to their needs and wants. 

If you are still unable to make decisions based on this information, the matter can go to the courts for a resolution. This can be a stressful experience, as a judge’s opinion on what is in your child’s best interests may not align with yours. Thus, working toward resolutions cooperatively can be best for your family.

Whatever route you take, focusing on your child and what they need now and in the long run is vital in protecting their physical and emotional health throughout a tumultuous time.