Child custody is among the most important issues parents deal with in divorce, perhaps the most important. For this reason, child custody disputes can often become quite contentious and can serve as a point of major polarization for parties. When this occurs, the natural reaction of parents is to advocate for my rights as a parent, my time with the children, my qualifications as a parent.
There isn't necessarily anything wrong with this up to a point, but advocacy for parents needs to be put in proper context. What is the proper context in child custody cases?
Quite simply, it is the children, and not the parents. In child custody cases, the overriding concern of the court system is to ensure that the custody arrangement is in the best interests of the children.
What are the best interest standards?
Courts consider a variety of factors to make best interests determinations. Each state has a slightly different approach, though there is a great deal of commonality as well.
Minnesota law requires a judge to consider, among other factors:
- The mental and physical health of all the parties
- Child preference if the child is old enough to sufficiently express a prefernce
- The child's adjustment to home, school and community
- Willingness as well as ability of each parent to provide ongoing care
- The child's relationships with parents, siblings and other persons.
Advocacy for parents in child custody cases always takes place in the context of these best interests factors. Because Judges have broad discretion in determining how to weigh these factors, it is critical to have an advocate who knows not only the law, but also how to navigate the process to highlight factors that are important for the judge to consider in making the best possible decision.
It is impossible to guarantee any particular outcome. A skilled family law attorney, however, can ensure best interests factors which affect your parental rights are presented in the best light and taken into consideration as far as possible.