When courts decide custody cases, they take the best interests of the child into consideration. This means the court makes decisions that support optimum health and wellness in a child, both physically and mentally.
As explained by ChildWelfare.gov, many states have specific best interest factors they review. However, these factors often overlap from place to place, so it helps to understand what information the court looks at when making custody decisions.
Provision of basic care
Basic food, clothing, and shelter are fundamental elements of parenting. In order to share custody of a child, a parent must exhibit the capacity to see to these basic needs on a regular basis.
The emotional bond between parents, siblings, and child
In addition to practical considerations, courts also strive to maintain a child’s emotional health. That is why a child’s emotional bonds with other members of their family matter in custody cases. The court works to avoid removing a child from a loving home environment unless absolutely necessary.
Issues related to abuse and neglect
The court almost always prefers for the child to maintain a good relationship with both parents. Exceptions include cases where one parent is abusive or neglectful to the child. If there is a previous history of abuse, the court may withhold visits and shared custody to safeguard the child.
The physical and mental health of each parent
Significant health issues that impair a person’s physical or mental well-being can also impact their ability to raise a child. That does not mean a parent must exhibit perfect health, but that any conditions they have should not prevent them from carrying out parental duties.
Courts can also consider the wishes of the child when weighing different factors. This usually depends on the child’s maturity level and age.