What Does “Best Interest of the Child” Mean in a Child Custody Action?

Keith Black

Keith Black

What does “BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD” really mean?

For many lawyers this is the catch phrase that we tell our new clients when we are asked the following question: “How does a Judge decide where my child will live?”

It is a phrase that seems simple yet like an onion when it is peeled back it reveals many layers that are neither set in concrete or consistent in weight.

I explain to me clients that a Judge will be concerned about a number of different factors and they are as follows, in no particular order of importance and by way of illustration but not a complete listing,:

  1. The Home the parent resides in…is it safe and does the child have appropriate space of his/her own?
  2. The parent’s job…is it 3rd shift, require out of town travel on a weekly basis, or weekend work?
  3. Activities of daily living…who is the parent that has routinely made sure the child gets up for school, has breakfast, takes their homework back to school, meets with the teachers, takes the child to the Dr., makes sure their homework gets done, feeds them dinner, gets the child bathed and in bed ready for the next day?
  4. Emotional/Psychological support…who is the parent that provides the love, guidance and structure for the child so that the child behaves and interacts with others on a healthy basis?
  5. Encourages love/respect for the other parent…which parent encourages the child to have a good relationship with the other parent?
  6. School…which parent lives in the school district so that the child does not have to travel a great distance to get to school?
  7. Family Support…does a parent have relatives (Grandma and Grandpa, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins etc.) that provide support and love to the child and help the parent as needed?
  8. HORNS (Drug abuse, alcohol abuse, physical abuse will dramatically affect the Judge in deciding this issue).…does a parent have Horns coming out of his/her head and a devils tail coming out of their rear end?

As you can see all of these issues can be bigger or smaller in any given family so when thinking of Custody of your child … look at these issues and see if you are providing what is “best” for your child because that is what the Judge will do.

Family Law