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What does the 'best interests of the child' mean to the court?

Like most other parents here in San Antonio and elsewhere, you make a concerted effort to make sure you do what is in the best interests of your children. You make decisions every day that affect their lives, and you do so because you believe it will serve them not only today but also into the future. Then, you and your spouse end up divorcing.

Now, even if you work with your future former spouse to create a custody agreement and parenting plan, you will need to convince the court it serves your children's best interests. It can be quite disconcerting to know that the standards of someone you have never met and who doesn't know your children and your family will determine what is best for your children. Understanding how judges reach that decision may help you through this challenge.

What factors does the court consider?

It probably wouldn't surprise you to know that the court doesn't make this type of decision without some direction. In order to determine whether the best interests of your children are served by a certain custody arrangement, a judge will take the following into consideration, at a minimum:

  • The court considers the needs of your children depending on their ages. Obviously, a younger child requires you to be more hands-on, so your time commitment to each child may vary in order to meet each one's needs.
  • The court will explore your ability to provide for your children, financially, emotionally and physically. The court looks at your living conditions, your financial capability, the amount of love and support you provide to your children, and more.
  • The amount of safety and consistency you provide your children makes a difference. In addition to making sure your children are safe, the court wants to maintain the consistency in their lives as much as possible.
  • The impact that the changes you propose for your children's lives will affect them. Some changes are inevitable due to the fact that the structure of your family is changing, but the court will want to avoid disrupting too many aspects of their lives.

Of course, your family is unique. You may have other factors that affect what your child custody arrangement will look like post-divorce, and the court will consider them. Whether you choose to negotiate your own plan or rely on the court for one, you may want to take the time to make sure the court understands as much about your particular situation as possible. Doing so will help you achieve the type of arrangement that works best for your family.

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