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Explaining the best interests of the child standard

On Behalf of | Mar 11, 2024 | Child Custody & Visitation

Custody cases can be complex. These cases decide who the child will live with, which parent will make key decisions regarding the child and how often a parent gets to visit their child. In some cases, parents are able to agree on a workable parenting plan. 

Nonetheless, some child custody cases can be contentious and the court may have to step in. Any final custody arrangement must meet the best interests of the child. This is the deciding factor in all custody rulings. But what exactly does the best interests of the child mean? 

There is no single definition 

There is no single definition of what the best interests of the child means. Instead, the court considers numerous factors. Some of the key aspects that will be looked at include: 

  • The existing relationship between parent and child. The court will consider what role each parent has already played in the upbringing of the child. For example, if one parent has fed, clothed and taken the child to school every day. 
  • The age and needs of the child. The needs of children can vary depending on their age and health. For instance, an infant child will need more hands-on care. A child with learning disabilities may need certain types of care and facilities at home. 
  • Parental abilities. The ability of each parent to care for the child will be assessed by the court. For instance, if one parent works abroad for much of the year, they may be awarded visitation rights rather than physical custody. 
  • The safety of the child. If there are any safety risks to the child then the court will attempt to minimize these. For example, if there is a history of violence or substance abuse from one parent, then supervised visitation may be ordered. 

To protect your own interests as a parent and the needs of your child, it will benefit you to seek as much legal guidance as possible before and during custody proceedings.