Divorce, in and of itself, is difficult. It doesn’t get any easier when you share a child with your soon-to-be ex. If the marriage is over, one of the most critical decisions you will need to make is the child’s post-divorce living arrangements.
If the divorce is acrimonious, the court will likely step in. While ruling on the custody and visitation arrangements, the court will be guided by the doctrine of the best interests of the child. But what exactly does this mean?
Understanding the best interests of the child
There is no standard definition of “the best interests of the child.” That said, the term generally refers to what will serve the child’s overall well-being after the parents’ divorce.
The court considers a number of factors when determining what is in the best interests of the child. Here are some of them:
Parenting ability – the court will closely scrutinize each parent’s genuine ability to meet the child’s physical, emotional and psychological needs. These include the parent’s ability to meet the child’s basic needs (food, clothing, shelter, medical care and education). This means that a parent who is struggling with shelter issues may have a difficult time getting primary custody of the child.
The safety of the child – the court takes the child’s safety very seriously. A parent who has a history of violence – either spousal or child abuse – will often have a difficult time proving their fitness for custody. The same applies to a parent who has serious criminal convictions.
No two child custody cases are the same. No matter the circumstances of your divorce, understanding the doctrine of the best interests of the child can help you protect your child during and after the divorce.