Divorce, in and of itself, is tough for just about everyone. After all, no one gets married with the goal of divorcing at some point. Divorce becomes particularly difficult if children are involved.
One of the most difficult dilemmas parents face during the divorce is the child’s post-divorce living arrangements. Ideally, the court would prefer that you and your spouse work out a post-divorce parenting plan that will work for everyone. If this is not possible, however, the court must step in and make a ruling based on the best interests of the child doctrine. But what exactly does this mean and how is it established?
Understanding the best interests of the child
There isn’t a clear-cut definition for the best interest of the child. Rather, this term refers to the parameters the court takes into account when determining who is best fit to live with and care for the child as well as parenting actions that will benefit the child most.
Here are some of the factors the court will rely on when determining a custody arrangement in the best interests of the child:
The child’s safety
The court will look at each parent’s current living conditions, their histories as well as other factors that could endanger the child’s wellbeing. A parent with a history of violence and substance abuse, for instance, will have a difficult time convincing the court that they are fit for custody.
The child’s age
Children’s needs vary with age. Younger kids, for instance, need more care and nurturing. Thus, the primary custody is likely to go to the mother. As they grow and become independent, however, the court may award joint custody to ensure that both parents share time with the child.
Child custody can be a complex subject, especially when parents fail to agree on a co-parenting plan. Find out how you can negotiate a custody and visitation plan that works for everyone.