Understanding the Criteria for “A Child’s Best Interests”

For any parents dealing with issues relating to child custody and visitation orders, it can be frustrating to try to predict how the judge will interpret the child’s best interests. Often, this term can feel abstract and subjective.

In our recent post, The Process of Determining Custody and Visitation, we explored the five most relevant considerations for deciding issues involving child custody. Of course, one of these core concerns involves the child’s best interests. In this post, we’ll continue to add background and context to issues involving custody and visitation by unpacking the term “a child’s best interests.”

While a judge will always make decisions on a case-by-case basis, there are specific factors he or she will examine, including:

A. The love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between each parent and the child;

B. The love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between the child and his or her siblings, half siblings, and stepsiblings and the residence of such other children;

C. The capacity and disposition of each parent to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and rearing of the child;

D. Each parent’s knowledge and familiarity of the child and the child’s needs;

E. The capacity and disposition of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, day-to-day needs, and other necessary basic care, with consideration made for the potential payment of child support by the other parent;

F. The home environment of each parent considering the promotion of nurturance and safety of the child rather than superficial or material factors;

G. The importance of continuity in the child’s life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity;

H. The stability of the family unit of each of the parents and the presence or absence of each parent’s support systems within the community to benefit the child;

I. The mental and physical health of each parent;

J. Each parent’s involvement, or lack thereof, in the child’s educational, social, and extracurricular activities;

K. Each parent’s employment schedule and the related flexibility or limitations, if any, of a parent to care for the child;

L. The home, school, and community record and history of the child, as well as any health or educational special needs of the child;

M. Each parent’s past performance and relative abilities for future performance of parenting responsibilities;

N. The willingness and ability of each of the parents to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, consistent with the best interest of the child;

O. Any recommendation by a court appointed custody evaluator or guardian ad litem;

P. Any evidence of family violence or sexual, mental, or physical child abuse or criminal history of either parent; and

Q. Any evidence of substance abuse by either parent.

From the relationships between each parent and child to the child’s life outside of the home, every child custody decision is made with the goal of maintaining the child’s wellbeing. Therefore, it’s essential for a judge to understand the details of the family dynamic and child’s history.

Legal Representation for Issues of Child Custody and Visitation in Georgia

At Andersen, Tate & Carr, our attorneys are dedicated to reaching the best possible outcome for our clients. Our criminal defense attorneys, Patrick McDonough and Trinity Hundredmark, have combined experience of more than 30 years representing clients facing criminal charges in Georgia. For more information, or to request a case evaluation, contact our law office at 1-770-822-0900.