The term "the best interest of the child" is used quite a bit, but few people really understand that this term has a legal meaning. This term is used to describe the health and welfare of minor children the world over, and is the focus of laws, guidelines, provisions, and human rights efforts. If you are a divorcing parent of a minor child, however, this term will have its own particular meaning. Read on to learn how the family court system uses this term to make decisions concerning children.
In a perfect world, parents would be able to come together and make decisions about their child on their own. When it comes to divorce, that seldom happens no matter how much the divorcing parents love their child. For those unable to agree on who has custody of a child in a divorce situation, the judge must decide using a number of factors.
Parental Behavior and Fitness: Judges are empowered to order psychological testing of parents to help them decide on custody matters, but often they need look no further than their own courtroom for evidence of good, or bad, parenting behavior. Contentious divorce battles can bring out the worst in parental behavior, and don't think for a minute that the judge is not always observing how you behave during court.
Divorce is undoubtedly emotional, but you could be placing your chances for getting awarded child custody in jeopardy if you cannot keep your behavior in check in the courtroom. Childish and inappropriate behaviors include:
- name calling
- making faces
- speaking disrespectfully about your spouse
- false accusations of abuse, drug or alcohol abuse and more
can make you appear to be unfit to be a parent for your child. What the judge needs to see is a person that is emotionally stable and who is willing to ensure the child has a fulfilling relationship with the other parent, regardless of who gets custody.
Age of the Child: For those who may think that things have changed in regard to a mother having more chances at custody than a father, the truth can be quite disappointing. Unless the mother shows obvious signs of being an unfit parent, they almost always end up with custody of a younger child. That being said, fathers do potentially have the ability to be awarded custody, but statistics are not on their side.
The Child's Opinion: If the child is old enough to express an opinion, they may have a chance to influence custody decisions. Particularly when it comes to tweens and teenagers, the family court judges will at least allow the child to state their wishes. While very young children won't be directly questioned by the judge, in some instances a specially trained expert will interview the child and provide an opinion.
Speak to a divorce attorney, like one from Nichols, Speidel, & Nichols, for more information.