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How do courts evaluate the “best interests” of a child?

On Behalf of | May 29, 2020 | Child Custody

It is not always easy for parents to decide how to divide up the custodial responsibilities of caring for a child after a divorce. When parents decide to end their relationship, they may choose to no longer be attached to their legal spouse, but they must remain responsible for their child’s needs. Between them, two parents must provide a child with basic needs like food and shelter, as well as the intangible support and care they require to thrive.

In Virginia, child custody is divided up into two main areas of focus: physical custody and legal custody. Parents can share these forms of custody or custody may be given exclusively to one of the child’s parents. A parent who has physical custody may have their child live in their home with them, while a parent with legal custody may make important decisions about their child’s well-being.

When a court must decide how custody will be split between two parents, it evaluates how to best serve the child’s best interests. Different children have different needs and therefore individuals should not rely on the outcomes of other cases to predict what will happen in theirs. This post does not provide legal assistance and readers may speak with their own attorney for guidance.

Some factors that may be relevant to child custody cases can include but are not limited to:

  • The physical health of the child’s parents;
  • The mental health of the child’s parents;
  • The age of the child;
  • The presence of abuse, drug use, or other factors in the lives of either parent;
  • Others who may live in the parents’ homes; and
  • For children of sufficient age, the preferences of the child.

In the end, courts strive to give children stability and care when they make decisions about how their custody should be established. Not all child custody matters are decided by courts, and when parents can work together they may set up their own custody plans. Family law attorneys can be contacted by readers with further child custody questions.