The One and Only: Best Interest of the Child
Many people are mistaken in their belief that the courts have a preference based on gender when deciding custody and visitation matters in family law cases. In reality, the courts do not consider gender, but rather look solely at what they believe is in the “best interest of the child.” The court looks at each individual case differently because there are no two cases that are identical. There are, however, certain factors that are considered when making these decisions. Furthermore, it can be said that courts do approach each case with the idea that it is in the best interest of every child to have a relationship with the mother and the father. For this reason, courts are generally reluctant to immediately grant sole custody to either parent and first take a hard look at how it would affect the child. Also, courts try to avoid splitting up siblings. Because of the importance of this decision and the lasting effects that it may have with all involved, the process of determining the best interest of the child can be quite time-consuming and can take its toll on all parties involved.
The “best interest of the child” standard has been used for many years but courts still struggle with it in attempting to make the best decision for the child. They know that this decision will play an important part in the child’s development as well as alter the lives of those in a child’s life. Because of the huge effect of the decision, courts consider a wide variety of non-exclusive factors that help them in their decision:
Remember, no list of factors can be complete because of the unique character of each case.
- Fitness of parent’s character and reputation of parties
- Desire of parents and agreements between parties.
- Potentiality of maintaining natural family relations.
- Preference of the child
- Material opportunities affecting the future life of the child
- Age, health and sex of the child.
- Residences of the parents, and opportunities for visitation; or geographic proximity of parental homes.
- Length of child’s separation from parent.
- Prior voluntary abandonment or surrender.
More factors, especially important when considering joint custody:
- Capacity of parents to communicate and reach shared decisions affecting child’s welfare.
- Willingness of parents to share custody.
- Relationshipbetween child and each parent
- Potential disruption of child’s social and school life
- Demands of parental employment
- Sincerity of parent’s request
- Financial status of parents
- Benefit to parents
Not all of these factors will apply to each individual case. Because each case is different, the court can consider whatever factors they deem important whether they are on this list or not. They will do what it takes to be sure that the decision made is in the best interest of the child.
Dealing with difficult and emotional family law issues is never an easy thing to do. However, working with our Columbia Attorney who understands the law as well as your needs as a person and as a member of a family could make the whole process easier and less stressful. Child custody cases require an experienced Maryland family law attorney. Our attorney has practiced in family law for over 30 years and is experienced in presenting the proper evidence to the Judge. Contact our Howard County Attorney at our Columbia, Maryland office at 410-730-4404. We can discuss how to approach your case and determine what is in the best interest of your child.