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Understanding the Best Interests of the Child

In almost every legal action involving a child/ children, the "best interests of the child" is a fundamental guiding principle. This best interests of the child is a guiding principal that is paramount in every legal action, and guides the Court accordingly. 

What Does "Best Interests of the Child" Mean?

The "best interests of the child" is a legal standard used to decide what will best serve a child, particularly in cases involving custody, visitation, and other parental rights. This principle is designed promote the child’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being.

Several factors are taken into account when determining what constitutes the best interests of a child. In New York the Court will evaluate the following to determine the best interests of the child:

·         which parent has been the main care giver/nurturer of the child

·         the parenting skills of each parent, their strengths and weaknesses and their ability to provide for the child's special needs, if any

·         the mental and physical health of the parents

·         whether there has been domestic violence in the family

·         work schedules and child care plans of each parent

·         the child's relationships with brothers, sisters, and members of the rest of the family

·         what the child wants, depending on the age of the child

·         each parent's ability to cooperate with the other parent and to encourage a relationship with the other parent, when it is safe to do so

The best interests of the child principle is applied in various legal contexts, including:

  • Custody and Visitation: Determining which parent will have primary custody, and the visitation rights of the non-custodial parent.

  • Adoption: Ensuring that the adoptive home will provide the child with the best opportunity for a stable, loving environment.

  • Relocation: Deciding whether a parent can move to a new location with the child, which may affect the child’s relationship with the other parent.

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