When deciding custody matters, the only thing the court considers is what is best for the children involved. They do not make decisions based on the interests of the parents.
The best interest of the child designation uses a few factors to help the court determine what it is. There is not one set definition other than that the court must make decisions that benefit the health, safety and happiness of the children.
Details about the child
The court will consider many details about each child, looking at the age, mental health, physical health and general needs. The judge considers the child’s interactions and relationships with family members. If the child is older and of the mental capacity to provide his or her feelings on the matter, the court may also consider those.
Factors about each parent
The judge also will look at the interaction between each parent and each child. The court will consider who provides the majority of the care and how involved each parent is in raising and caring for the children. The judge also looks at the physical and mental health of each parent. If there are factors of abuse or addiction, the court considers those as well.
The bottom line is the court wants to get a good idea of how best to serve the child with custody decisions. For example, if one parent is obviously the main caregiver, the court will probably award him or her the most parenting time. However, if both parents have equal involvement, the court may lean towards shared parenting. The goal is always to make choices that will best serve the children and allow them to have as little disruption in their lives as possible.