Child's Best Interest Standard in California
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What Is the Child's Best Interest Standard?
The "child’s best interest" refers to child custody arrangements or visitation schedules. Generally, a judge applies a principle that it is the best interests of the child, and not the desires of the parents, that should govern custody and visitation rights. The reasoning behind this standard is that while the needs of the parents are important, family law courts place a greater priority on the child’s development and adjustment.
How Is the Child’s Best Interest Determined in California
Generally, in California, there are two primary considerations in determining the child’s best interest:
- What will be best for the child’s health, safety, and welfare?
- The child will benefit from frequent and continuing contact with both parents, and how can that best be accomplished?
The purpose of not having a rigid definition, but yet broad considerations, is because each case is unique, and courts should render a custody order that best addresses the needs of all parties.
Are There Other Considerations?
While it would not be entirely true to say a court can consider anything, it can take into account most things that could have a substantial impact on the child’s growth and development. Many common considerations include:
- Abuse or Domestic Violence – Because the child’s "health, safety, and welfare" are paramount, courts will consider any history of abuse or domestic violence - committed on either the child or other spouse.
- Child's Preference – The voice of the child is important, however, courts will only consider the child’s preference if they are mature enough to make their own decisions with respect to their parents.
- Substance Abuse – Drugs - legal or illegal - and addiction can have a negative impact on parenting, so courts will consider how long a parent has been abusing drugs, the nature of the abuse, and if any other agencies, such as law enforcement or social services have been contacted as a result of the substance abuse.
Can the Child’s Best Interests Standard Be Overridden?
In California, the child’s best interest will almost always take precedent. However, if there have been drastic changes in the livelihood and life circumstances of one of the parents, it may be wise to ask the court to revisit their original determination of what the child’s best interests really are.
In essence, the court is still considering the child’s best interest, but under a different perspective that better fits the custody process. Common situations may include such a conviction for a drug related crime, loss of employment, or an emergency incident.
Should I Hire a Family Lawyer?
When dealing with custody orders and visitation rights, it is important to work under the guidance of a lawyer who understands the various laws governing such matters. Even in the simplest child custody claim, there are numerous deadlines to meet and documents that need to be filed. A competent family law attorney can assist you greatly in the process.
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Last Modified: 04-08-2014 04:08 PM PDT
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