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Divorce, custody and the best interests of the child standard

The end of a matrimonial union can be difficult; however, the end of parenting in the same home can be an emotional challenge and difficult to adapt to. While no one gets married to get a divorce, married parents do not often plan to not parent with their spouse.

Unfortunately, this is the reality that many parents face. And when the divorce process is initiated, family law issues need to be considered. There are many factors involved when determining divorce resolution, and when it comes to family law matters, the most prevalent factor is the best interests of the child.

Determining child custody

When children are involved in a divorce, child custody must be decided. Because no parent wants to spend less time with their child, this is often a difficult issue. Moreover, it is likely to be a family law issue parents will disagree with.

Whether you are working towards a joint custody plan or are seeking primary custody with the other parent getting visitation of the child, the matter will likely be resolved in one of two ways. The first is when both parents agree on child custody and visitation. Whether this was accomplished on their own, through informal negotiations, mediation or another form of collaborative law, this resolution was reached out of court.

The other option is to have the court determine child custody. In these matters, the judge will look at all the relevant factors in the case when deciding child custody and visitation. When making a custody determination, the court will use the best interest of the child standard.

The best interest of the child standard

At the starting point of any child custody matter, the court is under the presumption that the parents having joint custody is in the best interest of the child. However, when one or both parents disagree with joint custody, the court will consider several factors when determining what the best interest of the child in this matter is.

Often, the court will consider factors such as the child’s physical and emotional needs, the stability and continuity of the child’s home life, education and community, the availability of extended family, any history of child abuse, sexual abuse or domestic abuse, the child’s preference, the mental and physical health of each parent, the age of the child, the relationship and emotional ties the child has with both parents and each parent’s ability to care for the child.

Ultimately, the best interest of the child standard seeks to place the child’s wellbeing at the center of the custody matter. However, a parent might not agree with the court or seeks to modify the order in the future due to changes in circumstance. No matter the family law issue you are dealing with, it is important to understand your legal rights and what steps you can take to ensure they are protected throughout the process.