You often hear divorce courts throw around the idea of the “child’s best interests.” As a caring parent, you absolutely agree that the children should come first. You want their best interests to drive all of the divorce decisions. But what does that term actually mean?
There’s not necessarily a definition that fits every case. It just means that the children’s needs and what is generally best for them should be at center stage. A few factors that courts may consider when deciding what these best interests look like include:
- Whether or not one parent has a history of domestic violence, emotional abuse or excessive punishment.
- Whether or not both parents are physically and mentally healthy.
- The children’s genders and ages.
- If the parents have a history of drug use and other criminal activity.
- Where the children go to school, what activities they’re involved in and how to keep them involved.
- Where the children’s friends live and how to keep them in the same community.
- What a child, if they’re old enough, actually says that they want.
- Any relevant cultural and religious considerations.
- What the court can do to increase the stability in the child’s life.
None of these factors will decide the case in a vacuum. If your child says they want to live with you and not your ex, for instance, the court won’t automatically do that. They may decide for other reasons that the child should share time with both of you. But they’ll take all of these issues into consideration when making this decision. Be sure you know your legal options as you move through this process.