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How does the court determine the best interest of the child?

According to the New York State Unified Court System, courts use a “best interests of the child” standard when deciding custody cases. This means the court will make decisions that best promote the child’s optimum health and safety based on the pertinent factors.

Because these factors vary from case to case, it is important for you to understand what information the court will review. Here are a few things to keep in mind during your custody hearing.

The health of both parents

Parents should exhibit good physical and mental health to raise a child in a healthy manner. If there are significant issues with health and wellness, the court may require the person to seek treatment in order to receive custody or visitation rights.

The parents’ relationship with each other

Barring instances of abuse and neglect, it is almost always in the best interest of a child to maintain a loving relationship with both parents. If the court believes one parent will refuse to cooperate with the other and do what they can to encourage a healthy relationship, the court will take it into consideration.

Which parent provides the majority of care to the child

If one parent is mainly responsible for providing care to the child in the form of feeding, bathing, setting up doctor visits and performing similar duties, the court will consider that when deciding on custody.

How much both parents work

A parent with a busy work schedule and other obligations can have trouble meeting essential child care needs, such as taking a child to and from school each day. In this case, the court will look for alternative arrangements that ensure the child has a good relationship with both parents while also having their scheduling needs met.

With older children, the court will ask the child directly about their preferences. However, that child’s best interests will prevail, even if they counter the child’s wishes.

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