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What's considered to be in the best interest of a child?

When judges are asked to render decisions in child custody cases, they're taught to do so by taking into account what's in the best interest of the child. While what a judge will consider to be most ideal for a child may be different in one jurisdiction versus another, there are some commonalities that exist.

Before deciding on either visitation or custody, the judge will likely look at where the child will be safest. If a parent has been abusive in the past or the neighborhood he or she lives in is unsafe, then these circumstances will likely affect the judge's decision. In cases like this, he or she may require supervised visitation or limit a parent's overnights with the child.

A judge will also want to gain a better perspective about each parent's approach to raising children. They'll likely want to see evidence that the petitioning parent has the ability to provide his or her child with adequate shelter, medical care, food and clothing. They'll want to see that the petitioning parent has the financial means to care for the shared child and an ability to support his or her emotional needs as well.

Also critical for a judge in making a custody decision is determining which parent appears to be most apt to maintain consistency in their child's life. A judge will also take into account which parent has primarily been caring for everyday needs of the child, the quality of education offered by the school the child attend and the proximity of family members.

Finally, a judge will consider the age of the child. Infants or toddlers may rely on more dedicated care. A school-age child may feel a sense of attachment to one parent or be involved in extracurricular activities that require creative visitation schedules or custody arrangements.

With middle-school aged kids or teens, they frequently develop more allegiances toward one parent than another. Laws of many jurisdictions are written to allow older kids to express their own desires as it relates to custody openly in court.

If you and your ex are having difficulty in reaching an agreement as to which of your children should reside with, then a Naples, Florida custody litigation attorney can provide guidance in your legal matter.

Source: The Spruce, "Understand the "best interests of the child" standard," Jennifer Wolf, accessed Jan. 17, 2018

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