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How do judges determine the best interests of a child?

Many divorces involve the question of what will happen to the children of the splitting couple. Will the children divide their visitation time between the ex-spouses equally, will they spend more time with the other, or is one spouse even unfit to house the children at all? When these questions are in the hands of a Florida judge, expect these issues to be examined in light of what the child’s or children’s best interests are.

According to Findlaw, there is no single standard used to determine what a child’s best interests are. The specifics of divorce cases can vary wildly from case to case. However, the chief goal of determining what will happen to a child is to encourage and foster the happiness, mental and emotional well-being and security of the child into his or her young adult years. To that end, judges will take many factors into account.

First, the child’s relationship with his or her family will usually be examined. For example, a judge will look at whether a parent is abusive or excessively disciplines a child as grounds not to place the child in that parent's custody. A court may also consider the opportunity for the child to interact with a parent’s extended family, such as the parent's own parents, which are also the grandparents of the child. Whether a parent is physically or mentally capable may be another factor. A parent that cannot care adequately for a child may not end up with regular custody rights.

The characteristics of a child will also come into play. A judge will take into consideration the age, sex, religious and cultural background of the child or children. Judges may also consider a child’s custody state in relation to other children, like siblings, whose custody arrangement is also being considered. Additionally, if a child is old enough to express a well informed preference, the child’s wishes as to which parents he or she wants to stay with may also be taken into account.

This article is meant to educate the reader on how judges determine the best interests of children in divorce cases and is not to be taken as legal advice.

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