What is the Best Interest of the Child Custody Standard?
The following is a guest post on behalf of the Cantor Law Group, a prominent Phoenix divorce firm.
When it comes to determining the custody of a child in a custody proceeding, the courts will typically use the best interests of the child doctrine. This is often used when a married couple chooses to divorce there are one or more children involved or if a child has been born outside of marriage. Using this concept, the court will determine who the child lives with, how much contact the child will have with each parent and whether child support is granted to one of the parents.
The concept of best interest is a relatively new one. Even until the 1900s, the father was automatically given custody of any child in the case of a divorce. Mothers were granted custody later on, and eventually the courts began to favor them due to a new doctrine called Tender Years.
The best interest doctrine is used for visitation as well. When grandparents seek court-ordered visitation, the judge considers whether or not it is best for the child to grant visitation. Sometimes the judge rules that it is in the child’s best interest for the parent to allow the grandparent no access, whereas others will rule that a grandparent’s presence will help the child.
Joint, legal and physical custody are affected by the best interest doctrine. If the child is old enough and understands the concept of custody, the judge is likely to ask the child what he or she wants. While the other parent will maintain part of the legal custody, the other will have more physical custody. The court will also examine the physical and emotional needs of the child, in addition to school issues. The judge is unlikely to rule that one parent has a large amount of physical custody if it will interfere with the child’s time at school. If one parent demands that the child spend more time with him or her, the judge may determine that the change is too drastic and not in the best interest in the child.
Ultimately, the court will examine all the relevant factors associated with each parent as well as how the child will be affected. The end goal is to have the child emotionally and physically safe.
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