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What does “child’s best interests” mean?

On Behalf of | Nov 22, 2023 | Divorce & Family Law

Without a doubt, navigating the end of a marriage is challenging. Yet, keeping your child close to you is a top priority amid the chaos. However, the decision isn’t yours alone. During custody discussions, you’ll frequently encounter a pivotal phrase: “child’s best interests”. It is the guiding standard the court uses to make decisions regarding your child’s future.

Defining a child’s best interests

There is no one legal definition of what a “child’s best interests” are. Instead, consider it a term that refers to the standard by which the court decides what measures or orders will best serve a child. The court’s deliberation process on visitation arrangements and who receives custody are part of this.

Overall, it comes down to making decisions that safeguard the child’s well-being.

How do courts determine what is in a child’s best interest?

Virginia family courts consider multiple factors to determine what’s best for a child when deciding on custody or visitation rights. Among them are:

  • The age, physical and mental condition of the child
  • The age, physical and mental condition of each parent
  • The relationship between the child and each parent
  • Other key relationships of the child, such as with siblings, friends and other family members
  • How involved has the parent been in caring for and raising the child, and whether that will continue
  • The willingness of each parent to support the child’s relationship with the other parent
  • The willingness and demonstrated ability to maintain a relationship with the child
  • The preference of the child, if the court believes they are capable of expressing such a preference
  • Any history of abuse
  • Other factors the court believes are necessary

The outcome of this rigorous assessment is a decision on the type of custody arrangement. The court may grant either joint custody to both parents or sole custody to one parent.

Your rights as a parent

A major concern for the judge is what will happen to the child. Custody battles are never easy, but you may be better prepared to handle them with legal counsel on your side. You may have a good chance of obtaining custody if you can prove to the court that your ex is unfit. A competent team of lawyers can guide you through the process, strengthen your case and demonstrate why you are the preferable choice.

These rough legal battles may make you lose sight of what you are fighting for. In times of confusion, remember that this is about putting your child first.