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Evaluating the best interests of the child

Parents in New York may benefit from learning more about the factors family courts consider when evaluating what course of action is in the best interest of the child in a custody proceeding. The child's happiness and safety are typically of the highest priority when a judge is considering what options are best. Family courts may also evaluate the caregiver or parent's living circumstances and the adult's capacity to be a parent.

There are several factors to be considered when the assessing the best interests of the child for custody arrangements. When the child is old enough to reasonably express a preference, their wishes are typically taken into consideration. Judges often make these decisions dependent on the age, sex and number of children involved in the proceeding. Courts also take note of any records of domestic violence or other evidence related to drug abuse, sex abuse or child abuse.

The physical and mental health of the parents is also a factor in making rulings that affect children. Maximizing stability for the child is usually one of the most important goals as well. Religious beliefs or cultural customs may also equate into judgments involving children. Existing relationships with extended family members may also be worthy of consideration when relocation is a factor in a court proceeding. When possible, family courts recognize the value of a child sustaining a healthy relationship involving frequent contact with both parents.

Parents who need help with a legal proceeding that affects a child typically benefit from obtaining a family lawyer. Lawyers may be effective in providing parents with more accurate expectations, while helping to prepare for potential headwinds in the future. Legal counsel may be able to provide assistance with negotiating terms for child custody and visitation that serve the interests of all parties.

Source: Findlaw, "Focusing on the "Best Interests" of the Child", November 26, 2014

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