In child custody and visitation cases, couples are encouraged to reach an agreement on how the child will divide his/her time, with whom the child will live, and other issues regarding the child's upbringing. If couples are unable to agree on custody and visitation matters, then the courts will make a final decision regarding the living situation of a minor.
In each one of these case types, the decision is made by a judge with the “best interests of the child” in mind. In other words, the ruling will be made in an effort to foster and encouraging a child’s happiness, mental health, and safety. This term encompasses a wide variety of different factors that all come together to influence a child’s wellbeing.
Factors That Affect the "Best Interests of a Child"
When determining living and visitation arrangements for children, the courts will conduct a thorough investigation into their current living environment and make a determination regarding what would best contribute to their growth and security.
The following factors all determine a child’s best interests:
- A child’s wishes
- The parents’ mental and physical health
- A child’s special needs
- Stability of home environment
- Custody of siblings
- A child’s age and gender
- The presence of abuse
- Level of cooperation between parents
- Child's relationships with each parent
- Living situation of each home
It is important to note, however, that some of these factors are more powerful than others. For example, a child could have a strong relationship with a drug-abusing parent, but if the parent’s behavior is deemed harmful to the child’s development, it is likely that custody would be granted to the other parent. Additionally, a child’s wishes are only applicable if they are old enough to express a reasonable preference. The decision ultimately comes down to what would be best for the child's safety and well-being. If you want to improve your chances of getting custody, try to establish a stable home environment and do your best to be involved in your child's life