Ask a Family Law Attorney: How Does Court Determine the Best Interests of the Child?


When dealing with a custody battle, you and your former partner can make arguments regarding who should gain custody of your child. You can also come up with a custodial plan that you present to the judge for evaluation. However, the basis for the decision always comes down to several factors that are determined to be within your child’s best interests. Let’s look at what those are, and your family law attorney can explain them in further detail.

Ask a Family Law Attorney: How Does Court Determine the Best Interests of the Child?

1. Ability to Care for the Child

Primary physical custody will almost always go to the parent with the best ability to look after the child. If parent A lives paycheck to paycheck in a tiny apartment, and parent B lives comfortably in pleasant accommodation, then parent B is going to get custody of the child in most cases. If the parents display an equal ability to care for the child’s physical and emotional needs, then other factors a going to come into account and influence the decision.

Parents may also be awarded joint custody of the child if it’s at all possible. Speak to your child custody lawyer in Sugar Land to discuss if this is possible for your case. Keep in mind that each parent will have to live close enough to each other and to the child’s school for joint custody to work out. Each home must also allow the child a safe environment to grow up in.

2. Ability to Meet the Child’s Emotional Needs

Sometimes a child just won’t get along with one of their parents, as they see the world differently or have clashing personalities. This makes it harder for the parent to meet the child’s emotional needs. The judge will examine the relationship the child has with each parent to ensure the emotional needs of the child are being met and to ensure there are strong bonds and relationships between the child and the parents.

Emotional relationships between any siblings or half-siblings can also be taken into account. This is most common in cases where there are half-siblings who live with just one of the parents. Usually, in custody battles, all the children of the divorced couple stay together when it comes to custody.

3. Ability to Keep the Child Safe

Some parents simply have a better ability to keep their child safe than the other parent. For example, one parent might live in a much safer area than the other, or one parent may have more physical capabilities to protect their child than the other. The parent who can keep the child safest will often be the one to gain sole physical custody if joint custody is not possible.

The parent with the best track record in keeping the child safe may be the one to receive sole conservatory custody if the other parent has displayed a tendency to not often make the best decisions on behalf of their child’s health, education, and more.

4. Ability to Allow Minimal Disruption in the Child’s Life

When parents get divorced it substantially disrupts a child’s life. The court wants to minimize any further disruption. This means they want to minimize the need for the child to change schools, doctors, extracurricular activities, and similar things. If parent A lives a great deal from the child’s school and doctor’s office, but parent B lives closer to them, then this may influence the decision depending on the other factors that come into play in your specific case.

Note that parent A and parent B may opt to move houses so they can be closer together to make joint custody more feasible. If this is the plan in your case, then be sure to tell the judge so they can take this decision into account. In most cases, joint custody is ideal if it’s what both parents want and if it seems to be in the best interests of the child based on all the other criteria.

5. Ability to Be There for the Child

If a parent has a highly demanding job, is dealing with health issues, or is dealing with a circumstance that may take them away from their child for long periods of time, then this can be taken into account. In some cases, a healthier parent may be favored over one with a disability or illness. Parents with more flexible jobs may be favored over ones with a rigid schedule who often work overtime or work strange hours.

These are just some of the factors that go into determining the best interests of the child. In some cases, the child’s opinions and preferences will also be taken into account. Family law cases are never simple, but rest assured every decision a judge makes for your family is one intended to keep your child safe and comfortable.


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