If you have been involved in a child custody case, I am sure that you have heard either your lawyer or the Judge refer to the "best interest of the child" and wondered what that exactly meant. I am also sure that you are wondering why the Judge gets to determine the best interest of your child.
This particular phrase is a legal term that allows for a Judge to make a determination of any issue in such a way that he, or she, believes will best benefit your child into growing into a well-rounded adult. So why does the Judge get the make this decision? Simply put, because the Judge is a neutral person looking at your situation from the outside.
What things might a Judge look at when determining the best interests of the child?
- Having a criminal record showing a history of physical assaults
- Having a bad driving record showing at least one DUI or a suspended license
- Allegations of sexual abuse
- Exposing the child to sexually explicit television programs, movies, printed or pictorial materials
- Exposing the child to violent television programs, movies or video games
- Abusing alcohol and/or using illegal drugs
- Negative comments by one parent about the other parent in the presence of the child including the payment or non-payment of child support and involving the child in the legal process
- Cooperating in allowing physical access to the child for visitation
- Allowing for the involvement of the other parent in the parenting of children
- Allowing for telephone access to child
- Having a history of involvement in your child's school, education and extracurricular activities
- Having voluntarily supported or failed to voluntarily provide support for the child
- Having a steady employment record including a job that provides for flexibility in caring for the child
- Involvement by grandparent
- Presenting a daily plan for a child including who may be caring for your child beside yourself such as grandparents, stepparents, close family relatives
- Whether you introduced your new companion to the child before or after divorce
- Having an overnight companion while having responsibility for a child
- Making a determination about religious training for the child
What type of things might a Judge consider, but not solely base their decision on?
- Mother vs. Father - there is no longer a presumption that the mother is the better parent for a child
- Money - while the ability to care for your child is considered, the amount of money that you have is not.
What type of things can you do that might sway a Judge's opinion?
- Be involved in the legal process by knowing your court dates and what is going on
- Go to a parent education class
- Have a forensic custody evaluation done
- Attend drug and alcohol education classes/rehabilitation (if need be)
- Keep any new relationships at a distance and make sure you know their criminal background
All of these things, as well as the way that you present yourself to the Judge, are looked at individually and as a whole. While some Judges may put weight on the factors differently then another, they will all look at the big picture and not just one factor when determining the best interest of the child. Being courteous and cooperating with the other parent will always be the most beneficial no matter the situation. If you make a change to any one factor, it could tip the scales so that the Judge might alter their decision.
If you any questions or concerns about child custody, or any other issue that might arise, please contact the Scott Law Group at (336) 993-5000 or email us at [email protected] to set up a consultation. Our attorneys are experienced in handling child custody cases, including modification and enforcing provisions that already exist. Call or email today to discuss your case.