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What the Best Interests of the Child Really Means

Dec. 17, 2018

Factors That Determine the Best Interests of the Child

According to the CDC, the divorce rate was 3.2 per every 1,000 marriages in 2014. While that figure is lower than it has been in past years, it means that parents and children may need to prepare for life after divorce. In your divorce proceeding, the needs of the child are given top priority. Contact our family law attorneys to understand the factors that determine the best interests of the child.

The Child May Play a Role in a Custody Proceeding

When it comes time to determine who gets custody of your child, he or she may be given some say in the matter. This largely depends on how old your child is and how mature a judge perceives the child to be. It is important to note that a judge is not bound by the child’s wishes when creating a custody order in your case. Furthermore, you aren’t necessarily bound by your child’s stated desires, either, if you and your spouse choose to create a parenting plan outside of court.

Does the Child Have Special Needs?

If your child requires specialized care or access to a specialized educational environment, that could be a factor in creating a custody order. Most likely, you will be given custody of the child if you live closer to the school or medical facility where your son or daughter receives treatment. The opposite could be true if your former spouse lives closer to the services your child needs. Of course, this assumes that your former spouse is capable of being on-time to appointments or administering other care in a timely fashion.

Is Either Parent Physically or Mentally Abusive?

In the event that you are seen as mentally or physically abusive toward your child, that could result in limited parental rights after a divorce. The same would likely be true if your former spouse acted inappropriately with your children. However, it is possible that a judge would allow supervised visitation as long as whoever had problems in the past worked toward resolving them.

For instance, you or the child’s other parent could be ordered to take parenting or anger management classes. In some cases, these classes can help you or the other parent gain a new perspective on how to raise a child and make positive changes to raise a son or daughter in a healthier way.

Does Either Parent Have Mental Health Issues?

You won’t necessarily be denied custody or visitation rights simply because you have a history of mental health problems. The same is generally true for the child’s other parent. However, a judge will want to know that you have a plan in place to keep your symptoms in check. It may also be necessary to have a plan for when a nervous breakdown or panic attack may make it impossible to be with the child temporarily. A family law attorney may be able to further explain how mental health issues could impact a custody decision.

Can You Be Civil for the Child’s Sake?

Just because parents can’t get along with each other doesn’t mean that they can’t work together to raise their children. Ideally, the law would like to see both parents share custody of their children whenever possible. Assuming that you and your former spouse are able to provide a safe environment for your child, it is likely that both will be given the opportunity to play a significant role in his or her life.

However, if you and the child’s other parent can’t get along, it may be necessary to engage in parallel parenting. What this means is that each parent maintains a relationship with a child with minimal interference from the other. Generally speaking, parents will only communicate with each other if there is an important issue related to the child. Even then, communication may only occur by digital means and with strict protocols set in place.

If you are looking for help with a family law issue, contact the family law attorneys at Stewart Law PLLC today. This can be done by calling our office in Baytown or using the contact form on our website.