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How are the best interests of the child determined?

When courts evaluate child custody determinations, the paramount concern for consideration is what is in the best interests of the child. Because of the importance of determining what is in the best interests of the child when evaluating child custody decisions, parents may wonder how the best interests of the child is determined.

The best interests of the child standard is used by courts to determine what types of services, actions and orders will be best for the child and who is best suited to care for the child. The best interests of the child and what services, actions and orders will best serve the interests of the child are determined based on the consideration of a number of factors. Factors that are commonly considered when determining the best interests of the child relate to the child's circumstances, the circumstances of the parents and the capacity of the parents to parent. In addition, a guiding consideration whenever child custody situations and the best interests of the child are being evaluated is the overall safety and well-being of the child.

Considerations that are frequently included when determining what is in the best interests of the child are the importance of family integrity, timely and permanent decisions and the health, safety and protection of the child. Minnesota laws provide general guidance for courts to consider and allow courts to use discretion when considering what is in the best interests of the child in each situation. Minnesota also places an importance on maintaining familial bonds, such as with siblings, as much as possible when determining what is in the best interests of the children.

Child custody determinations, arrangements and agreements can be especially emotional for families. Understanding how child custody decisions are reached and evaluated may be helpful for parents and allow all parties involved to focus on ensuring an outcome that is in the best interests of the child.

Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway, "Determining the Best Interests of the Child," Accessed July 15, 2015

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