Friday, August 28, 2009

Child Custody: What is Best Interests of a Child

Family Law Practice blog  has a good overview of the concept in his Best Interests of the Child

Certainly, an older child’s wishes will be given more weight than a younger child. What is the nature of the relationship with the child and the custodial parent? The noncustodial parent? The court will also look at the present home environment and whether the child is prospering within that environment.

Is the child adjusting well in school, getting along with other children, keeping his/her grades up?

Are there any significant issues with respect to the ability of a parent to care for the child? Is there evidence, for example, of drugs/alcohol that could impede the child’s growth?

The court does not take any of these issues lightly. Indeed the decision to either remove a child from one parent or to award custody to the other is, arguably, one of the most important, most difficult, and most emotionally charged decisions that a court can make.
This fits very well with the Indiana Code's description of what is to go into a determination of best interests:
IC 31-17-2-8
Custody order
Sec. 8. The court shall determine custody and enter a custody order in accordance with the best interests of the child. In determining the best interests of the child, there is no presumption favoring either parent. The court shall consider all relevant factors, including the following:
(1) The age and sex of the child.
(2) The wishes of the child's parent or parents.
(3) The wishes of the child, with more consideration given to the child's wishes if the child is at least fourteen (14) years of age.
(4) The interaction and interrelationship of the child with:
(A) the child's parent or parents;
(B) the child's sibling; and
(C) any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests.
(5) The child's adjustment to the child's:
(A) home;
(B) school; and
(C) community.
(6) The mental and physical health of all individuals involved.
(7) Evidence of a pattern of domestic or family violence by either parent.
(8) Evidence that the child has been cared for by a de facto custodian, and if the evidence is sufficient, the court shall consider the factors described in section 8.5(b) of this chapter.

1 comment:

MikeD said...

The reason custody decisions are so "emotionally charged" is because normally both parents are reasonably capable of raising the child. Therefore one parent is being reduced to a greatly inferior status without any particular reason, other than vague (and often times pre-staged) 'primary care provider' activities (The studies are clear - working couples are typically near-equal in care-provider roles). The distinctions raised in court can not result in 'the best parent' being awarded custody because BOTH parents are 'the best parent'. That is also why the "best interest of the child" is not so much a standard, but a more like a fuzzy goal that social science studies and individual grade point averages of a child's schooling do little to illuminate. Furthermore, many child psychologists agree with those judges who feel it is a NOT a good idea to let children's wishes-at-the-moment influence the court's decision, given the prevalence of parental manipulation behind the scenes.