When parents get divorced or separate if they aren’t married, they may be able to work together to set up a parenting arrangement that the court can approve. In an amicable split, the parents ideally put their children first naturally.
But when parents can’t agree on things like parenting time and decision-making power, then the court may have to step in and make a ruling. To do this, the court will try to focus on the child’s best interests.
What does the court look at?
Determining a child’s best interests in legal matters, particularly in cases of custody and parenting time during a divorce, often involves considering several factors simultaneously. While these factors can vary from one case to the next, the following are commonly considered:
- Child’s safety and well-being: The primary consideration is the child’s safety, health and overall well-being. Courts prioritize arrangements that provide a stable and secure living situation.
- Relationship with parents and caregivers: The quality of each adult’s relationship with the child is assessed, including their emotional bond, attachment and history of caregiving.
- Primary caregiver role: The court may consider which parent has been the child’s primary caregiver, considering daily care, involvement in education, healthcare and other important aspects of the child’s life.
- Child’s wishes (if age-appropriate): The child’s preferences or wishes about custody and/or visitation could be considered if the child is mature enough.
- Continuity and stability: Maintaining stability in the child’s life, including continuity in education, community and relationships, is often deemed essential.
- Cooperation between parents: Courts assess the willingness and ability of parents to cooperate and facilitate a positive co-parenting relationship, especially in shared custody arrangements.
- Religious and cultural considerations: Courts may consider the importance of maintaining a child’s religious or cultural upbringing and may take these factors into account in custody decisions.
- Geographic proximity: Proximity of parental homes and the impact on the child’s routine, schooling and social life may be considered when determining custody or visitation arrangements.
- Special needs or considerations: Any special needs of the child, whether physical, emotional or developmental, are taken into account to ensure appropriate care and support.
Courts aim to assess these factors comprehensively and to make decisions that put children’s best interests first. As parents go through a divorce, they need to know exactly what legal steps to take, what parental rights they have and how to seek a proper resolution. As a result, seeking legal guidance as proactively as possible is generally wise.