22 Feb The Best Interests of the Child After a California Divorce
Even if you are not involved in a divorce yourself you may have had first-hand experience of a messy divorce involving a friend or family member. One of the things that you may have heard about if there were dependent children involved was something called the “best interests of the child”. What exactly does this mean in California and how is it determined?
One of the many difficult decisions which has to be made when a couple divorces is what to do about dependent children. Both parents may want to maintain custody of them and believe that they can offer the best home background for their children. This is not practical unless both parents live together after the divorce, which is an unlikely prospect.
The best scenario is that the two parents discuss the situation rationally and come to a mutual agreement which allows both parents to have continued access to the children even if the children remain at home with one of the parents for most of the time.
A mutual agreement would have to come to terms with who contributes financially as well as providing moral and emotional support.
Not every couple is able to come to a mutual agreement and there can be substantial disagreement between them. There may even be serious issues such as a history of emotional or physical abuse by one of the parents.
A couple may find that they have to seek legal help from a family law attorney and seek mediation and a decision by the family law court as they cannot resolve the issue of child custody by themselves amicably enough.
When a family law court decides on child custody arrangements, including visitation rights and child support payments it uses a legal standard known as the “best interests of the child”. This is a combination of factors which must be taken into account. The main ones are the health, safety and welfare of each dependent child. Where there is more than one dependent child to be considered the best interests of each child is looked at individually.
Under this heading the court will be making a decision about who is the best person to ensure that the child(ren) are able to remain healthy. Factors considered will include a healthy, nutritious diet, being able to take a child for check-sps, including to the dentist, taking prompt action if the child appears sick, addressing learning disabilities, having a plan if the child is mentally or physically disabled in any way. Parents need to bring concerns to the attention of the court if it is felt that any one of them may not be able to provide the full range of health care for their child(ren).
The main priority for any court is to ensure that a child cannot be left in a situation where it can be mentally or physically abused or harmed by one or the other of the parents. Other than that, safety considerations looked at may include bullying at school or between siblings, which is the safest neighborhood that the child (ren) can grow up in. Again the court will be looking to make a decision about which of the two parents can provide the safest environment for their child (ren).
This category takes in aspects of the child’s best interests which may not be covered by the other two categories. Welfare interests include such things as the personal choice of the child for a particular parent, emotional bonding between the child(ren) and specific parents, their emotional welfare, their religious upbringing, if that is considered important, their psychological stability.
If you are going through divorce or separation and are having a hard time deciding on child custody and child support it may help to discuss your concerns freely with an experienced family law attorney. If you and your spouse cannot come to an amicable agreement, you may find that the family court is the best option. A family law attorney can help you to present the best case to convince the court that you have the best interests of your children when considering who is to retain custody of your child(ren).