What is the Best Interests of the Child?

The general, overarching standard in all states for child custody is to come to a resolution that is in the “best interest of the child.” But this standard might seem rather subjective. Exactly what is meant by “best interest?”

What is the Best Interests of the Child

The following are a few factors that go into these decisions:

  • The child’s age: There are many judges who believe younger children are better off living with their mothers, especially if the mother has already served as the primary caregiver or is currently breastfeeding.
  • Parents’ living situations: Judges aim to place children in homes that are going to provide positive living environments. Parents should have living situations that are stable and allow for continuity in the children’s lives (for example, allowing them to stay in the same school).
  • Cooperation with spouse: Judges want to see that a parent is willing to cooperate with the other parent and support his or her relationship with the kids. Cooperative parents are more likely to receive a positive resolution in a custody dispute.
  • Risk factors: If there is any risk of abuse or neglect by either parent, or if one parent has proven to be incapable due to factors such as alcoholism, drug abuse or irresponsibility, the judge is unlikely to grant that person custody.
  • The child’s preferences: In some circumstances, judges may weigh a child’s preferences into their decision. Other courts completely disapprove of bringing children’s views into the equation. Even if a judge does allow children to provide their opinion, however, it will merely be one small aspect of the decision.

How Does Religion Factor into Custody Arrangements?

In some circumstances, courts may look at the way children are impacted by religion in determining which parent will get child custody in a divorce. It is one of five decisions made by married parents that must be made jointly, alongside decisions of residence, health care, recreation and education.

As courts analyze how religion impacts the children after divorce, they will first determine the “status quo” heading into the divorce, or the kind of religion the parents practiced before splitting. That religion is determined to be the child’s religion, and neither parent can change it on behalf of the child unless they both agree or they get permission from the court.

If there is no status quo religion in place, neither parent is allowed to make the decision to affiliate their child with a specific religious denomination without getting permission from the other. If a parent decides to change their religion after the divorce, it is fine for the parent to practice that religion as he or she sees fit. However, they are not allowed to force their children to go through the change of religion as well. They can openly share their beliefs with their children and explain their new faith to them, but they are prohibited from formally changing their child’s religion or forcing them to go through religious education in their new faith.

If your ex is being difficult in regard to religion after a divorce, you can work with the courts to stop them from attempting to illegally convert your children.

Free Consultation with Child Custody Lawyer

If you have a question about child custody question or if you need to collect back child support, please call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We will help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

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