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What does “best interest of the child” mean?

On Behalf of | Sep 16, 2022 | Family Law

Anyone who has been through the custody process in New York is familiar with the phrase “best interest of the child.” This refers to the legal standard that courts use when determining a custody schedule.

In a perfect world, you and your co-parent would agree on your own custody schedule and would follow it with no issues until your child turns 18. However, the reality is that there will probably come a time when your custody goals and plans are different from your co-parent, and you turn to a court to decide custody.

The court considers various factors

Both of you might have quite different ideas as to what kind of custody schedule is in your child’s best interest. There are many different factors that a court examines when deciding what is in the best interest of your child, with some factors given more weight than others.

One common misconception is that whichever parent makes more money will get primary custody, since they can provide a better standard of living. This is not true.

Stability and consistency

While one factor a court looks at is what type of stability each parent can provide, higher income does not equal stability. Rather, stability includes things like the time you have lived in your current home, your work schedule and any other family or household members living with you.

You may also assume that whichever parent has traditionally had primary custody of the child, they will automatically continue to receive it. A court will certainly consider which parent has traditionally been the child’s primary caretaker, but they will change this if other factors weigh in favor of the other parent.

For example, if your co-parent has traditionally had primary custody, but you have evidence that they have developed a drug habit or are mentally unstable, a court may consider shifting primary custody over to you.

Practical considerations

Other factors include practical items such as which parent can provide appropriate childcare, transportation options and work schedules. Every case is different, so getting advice from a custody attorney as to your chances of getting your desired custody schedule may be beneficial.