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What does 'the best interest of the child' mean?

As a parent, you most likely make decisions with the best interest of your child in mind. Generally, courts also use this reasoning in determining custody arrangements.

Under Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the "best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration [in all actions concerning children]." As such, "the best interest of the child" standard is commonly used by courts in custody cases across the United States.

Factors courts use to determine the best interest of a child

There is no clear definition of a child's "best interest." In fact, the best interest of a child varies between cases and can be completely different depending on a family's specific situation. As such, courts will consider a variety of factors in making their determination. Some of the factors might include:

  • Ability and availability of a parent to care for and meet the needs of the child
  • Any history or evidence of domestic abuse by a parent
  • Whether a parent is suffering from an alcohol or drug addition
  • Effect on child's routine, such as changes in city, school or close relationships
  • Preference of the child, depending on the child's age and ability to offer an opinion

Other factors might include spiritual, cultural or educational needs of the child. If one of the parents does not want to cooperate with the other parent or the judge believes he or she will not follow the terms of the agreement, a judge will likely take that into consideration as well.

Judges understand that child custody cases are extremely sensitive and complex. They also understand that a child's relationship with each parent can have a significant impact on his or her life. If you believe it is in best interest for you to be a part of their life, consider hiring a family law attorney today.

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