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What Does Best Interests of the Child Mean in Child Custody Cases?

May 14, 2018

When It comes to legal matters that involve children, the court must often look beyond the divorce and dispute of the couples to resolve all pending issues. One of the most pivotal concerns is where a child will live for the foreseeable future.

The court must try to evaluate the forthcoming placement by making predictions on where and with whom the child will fare best. Children have little say in the matter when they are under the age of 10 years old, which means the court must look at all the determining factors to make a decision that is in the “best interest of the child.” The term is frequently used to resolve all child custody battles. To determine the best interests, the court will use many methods.

The Domestic Relations Law

First, they will examine any testimony as to the character of the mother and father. The New York laws regarding custody are scant, so the court must rely on the information they receive to help them to make an informed decision. While mothers were once favored as the best choice for a child, the Domestic Relations Law 70 does not give any prejudice to either parent. The decision is based solely on the party that can provide the best care both physically and financially.

Most people entering into a child custody situation are familiar with the term “best interests.” Each case is unique with circumstances and people, so the nature of these cases is often sensitive at best. The court will evaluate the circumstances, and all the factors deemed necessary to make a custody determination. Numerous factors are used to decide the New York Courts. Establishing the “best interests of the child” is almost never easy. The list that is used of criteria is vast and cannot be discussed at length, but there are a few things that the court deems as critical in deciding where the child will have the best life.

Great esteem is given to the trial court by the New York appellate as this branch of the court system can best evaluate the testimony and summarize the best interests. The case Eschbach v. Eschbach 56 N.Y.2d 167 case was important in helping to set a precedence in deciding such factors.

Prior Agreements

Numerous aspects are brought into deliberation when defining the best interests of the child. First, the court is concerned about the home where the child will reside. Next, they look at the background of both parents. Are there any criminal records or a history of child abuse and neglect? The court also cares about the child’s wishes. Older children have more of a say in the matter than those that are younger and apt to change their mind.

Often, agreements are made by prior court proceedings. While the court will use this as a deciding factor, they do not deem it absolute. The court is not bound by any agreement made by two parties but will evaluate the agreement. If the circumstances have changed from the previous contract, then the changes and how it affects the “best interests” is brought into consideration.

Evaluating the Financial Situation

The role of each parent and their relationship with the child is pivotal for determining custody. While most people tend to look at a party’s financial status, the court cares about finances but does not consider this the only factor when deciding custody. The court must be assured that the parent will provide quality guidance and can care for the child far beyond the financial aspects. Money is usually brought into the equation when one parent may not be able to provide secure housing and necessities for their child. The court does not overlook monitory means, but it applies equal concern to emotional and intellectual development needs too.

Taken into consideration are the child and their induvial needs. Though the desires of the child are considered, they are not determinative for the case. This is especially true if there is more than one child in which the court is seeking a custodial arrangement.

Dealing with The Child’s Preference and Any Sibling Connections

Parents often argue that a child wants to live with one or the other. When it comes to weighing their request, the court looks at the maturity and age of the child in question. They also determine if the child has been influenced in any way. A kid that is five years of age will receive little consideration for their request. However, an individual that is 16 years of age will have more weight given to their desires. If the best interest does not coincide with their wishes, then the court will not use their hopes for any placement matters.

Lastly, the Eschbach case distinguishes that keeping siblings together is beneficial. The court sees it a priority to keep the family together as it has been proven that both psychological and growth benefits of the unit cannot be denied. Separating brothers or sisters can not only be traumatic, but it can have harmful effects for years to come. Though this case showed the importance of the sibling units, the New York court system tries to follow this protocol, but there are some cases where it is not in the best interest of all involved. Sometimes, it is better for them to be split up. Placing different children with different parents may be the best option.

The evaluation of numerous crucial factors helps to determine the best interests of a child. It takes a great deal of both thought and consideration to come to this conclusion. Frequently, the testimony given by others involved with the parents is used in deliberation. The sincerity and the character of each person weigh heavily. The court has a significant job to come to a decision that means everything to the child.

Family law is almost always tricky because there are so many emotions involved. When handling a situation such as this, remember that the court is looking out for the child. They use every bit of information available to make an informed decision. It is not a personal choice against one parent or the other; it is merely putting the child where they feel they will flourish most.

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