Child Custody Information

In determining Child Custody in a divorce proceeding, the most important question asked by the courts is "what is in the best interest of the child?" This question focuses the courts' attention on the custody and care of the child and away from the desire and wishes of the two competing (and often hostile) parental interests. Although there are no uniform standards among the states as to what factors make up the "best interests of the child," the child's ultimate safety and well-being are of the greatest concern.

Principles Used to Determine the "Best Interest of the Child"
Courts are to assume the following in making a determination on the best interest of the child:
(1) It is important to maintain stability through family integrity and keeping the child in his or her home;
(2) It is important to protect the health and safety of the child;
(3) It is important to make a timely decision that will result in permanency and stability;
(4) It is important when a child is taken from his or her home that the child be given care, treatment, and guidance that will assist the child in developing into a self-sufficient adult.

Factors Used in Determining the Best Interest of the Child
Given the assumptions stated above, the Courts then consider the following factors:
(1) The ties between the child and his or her parents, siblings and other family members;
(2) The ability of the parents to provide food, shelter, medical care and other necessities for the child;
(3) The mental and physical health needs of the child;
(4) The mental and physical health of the parents;
(5) Whether there is a history of domestic violence in the home; and
(6) In some states the child's wishes, but most of these states require the child to have reached a certain age of maturity.
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