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The "best interests" of children in child custody cases

In a divorce, parents may sometimes resolve the issue of who will get custody outside of the courtroom through negotiations and agreement. At other times, a New York family court judge makes the child custody decision. Either way, the main focus in every custody case is a solution that will be in the child's "best interests," which is a significant and meaningful phrase.

What this means is that all visitation discussions and custody decisions should be made with an ultimate goal in mind of encouraging the child's security, happiness, emotional development into a young adult and mental health. Ultimately, the child's best interest lies in having a loving and close relationship with each parent. However, this goal can be difficult for parents when it comes time to actually promote and maintain these relationships.

This aspect can be one of the most challenging in attempting to resolve a child custody dispute. However, when considering what is in a child's best interests, it is crucial to realize that the decisions made now -- by either the parents or the court -- will affect the development of the child and the parents' relationships with the child in critical ways for years and years to come. Though not exhaustive, some of the common factors to consider are the child's wishes, if the child is old enough to express a preference that is reasonable, the physical and mental health of both parents, and a need for the continuation of the child's stable home environment.

Determining a child's best interests is usually made by the parents by considering a wealth of factors that consider the child's circumstances, as well as the parents' circumstances and their capacities to parent. Ultimately, the main goal, of paramount concern, is the child's happiness and safety. Since child custody -- as well as visitation -- laws are often changing, many New York parents involved in divorce typically consider consulting attorneys who focus on family law.

Source: FindLaw, "Focusing on the "Best Interests" of the Child", Accessed on April 18, 2016

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