New York couples who have parted ways but share a child will often have to navigate who will be the custodial parent, how the visitation rights will be handled, and deal with a custody dispute. There are certain terms that are used during this process that might be confusing to a vast number of parents. Included is the "best interests of the child." This is of paramount importance when the court decides on the case.
There is no a standard way to define "best interests." In a very general manner, it relates to what the judge will take into consideration when deciding on the child's care. In New York, the health and safety of the child is what is most important. With custody and visitation, the court will not favor one parent over the other. The child's well-being is the determinative factor. There are numerous issues that are considered.
The court will determine which parent was the main caregiver and nurtured the child. Each parent's skills at parenting, what the strengths and weaknesses are, and how well they can provide for the child is factored in. The parents' physical and mental health is important. If there was domestic violence in the family, that can have an impact. The parents' work schedules and plans for the child's care are keys. If there are siblings and other relatives who are part of the child's life, this can be assessed with the decision. The child, if deemed of sufficient age and maturity, can have a say in where he or she lives and what the visitation schedule is. Finally, the parents are expected to be cooperative with one another to encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent.
With the best interests of the child, the issues that go into how that is determined are many and must be considered by both parents. Having legal help from an attorney who is experienced can be beneficial on a multitude of issues from where a child will live to what the visitation and custody circumstances are. That is why it is key to speak to an attorney.
Source: nycourts.gov, "Best Interest of the Child," accessed on March 28, 2017