If you have children, then what happens with custody will be your biggest concern in your upcoming divorce. When parents can’t settle their own custody matters, litigation becomes necessary.
Family law judges should try to learn a bit about your family so that they can make appropriate rulings in custody matters. State law requires that whatever decision they make should be in the best interests of the children.
Some people don’t understand the best interests standard and may have unrealistic expectations for their divorce as a result. What does the best interests standard mean for parents who will share parenting time and decision-making authority?
The focus is on the long-term well-being of the children
All too often, people think that the best interests standard has more to do with the child’s wishes than with their future. However, if children truly knew what was best for them, parents would have a much easier job. Being a good parent often means making decisions your child doesn’t like, such as requiring them to eat vegetables and go to bed at a reasonable hour.
The best interests standard isn’t just about who the child likes more or who they would prefer to live with most of the time. It is also about the bond they have with each parent, the ability of those parents to meet their needs and numerous other factors.
A judge will want to see that a parent can provide for the basic daily needs of a child, like stable housing and nutritional food. They also want parents to put effort into a child’s health and education. The best interests standard may even consider which parent is more likely to cooperate with the other and prioritize secondary relationships that help support the child, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
How the best interest standard affects divorce strategy
A judge’s view of your situation based on testimony and other evidence will inevitably determine how you and your ex divide parenting time and other parental responsibilities. Whether you want the final say for medical decisions or time with the children on their birthdays, you need to set achievable goals and then develop your divorce strategy around those goals.
For custody matters, building a case that focuses on the children rather than your wishes can be a smart approach. For example, talking about your living situation and how the schools are better near your new residence where you have moved since separating might influence how the divide parenting time. If you eventually realize that your ex’s behavior no longer prioritizes what is best for the children, then you may be able to go back to court to ask for a custody modification.
Learning more about the rules that determine the outcome in contested custody matters will make defending your relationship with your children easier.