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What is in the best interests of the child?

As discussed last week on our Tustin family law blog, determining which parent will have custody of a child after a divorce involves a number of different decisions. Physical custody, legal custody, primary or joint custody, parenting time -- all must be taken into consideration while focusing on the best interests of the child. This is true whether divorcing parents are working on child custody issues out of court or before a judge.

So just how does a court determine what's in the best interests of a child? What does that phrase mean in a family law context? Generally speaking, it simply means that all custody decisions are intended to support the child's health and safety, happiness, and development.

A judge will consider any number of factors in determining whether a given custody arrangement is in a child's best interests. If the child is old enough to indicate his or her choice, that will be factored into the decision. The judge will also evaluate the parents' physical and psychological fitness, including any instances of severe punishment or abuse of the child, as well as any alcohol or drug abuse.

A number of other considerations may also be weighed. These range from culture and religion, to community and school, and even to any other children in the family and how their custody arrangements may have an impact. There is no formal checklist per se; a judge will look at each individual situation and think about what factors might influence the child's well-being.

The information above is intended to be general in nature only, not to be taken as legal advice. A family law professional can help Tustin parents with an analysis of what factors might reasonably come up during child custody proceedings.

Source:, "Focusing on the"Best Interests" of the Child," accessed on Dec. 29, 2017

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