Courts make decisions all the time that affect children. These decisions are often related to things like child custody, child support, any future modifications to custody and support, and termination of parental rights. These decisions are made in light of the best interests of the child.
At The Abeel Firm PLLC, our family law lawyers in New York provide guidance to our clients and help them understand what the best interest of the child means generally, and how it could affect their unique case specifically. Making sure our clients are informed helps them make better decisions, too. So, contact us online or at (716) 250-0681 to schedule a Consultation.
What is the Best Interest of the Child Standard in WNY?
To determine what is in the best interests of the child, a set of factors have been established to guide the courts. These factors are also meant as a way to objectively arrive at these decisions so that they are fairer and more consistent. The standards used by most states are based on and developed from the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, adopted in 1970. Section 402 of this Act provides that
The court shall determine custody in accordance with the best interest of the child. The court shall consider all relevant factors including:
(1) the wishes of the child's parent or parents as to his custody;
(2) the wishes of the child as to his custodian;
(3) the interaction and interrelationship of the child with his parent or parents, his siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interest;
(4) the child's adjustment to his home, school, and community; and
(5) the mental and physical health of all people involved.
The court shall not consider conduct of a proposed custodian that does not affect his relationship to the child.
As mentioned, these factors are the basis. With regard to the second factor, most states will listen to the wishes of the child but may not act on those wishes unless the child is a certain age. Further, many states have added additional factors into that state's specific standard of the best interests of the child.
Other Factors in Addition to the Best Interests of the Child
Courts can also consider other relevant factors. This could include:
- Race, although it cannot be a decisive factor
- Religion, although the courts cannot interfere with a parent's right to practice but can weigh how the religion or religious ritual may affect the child
- Sexual conduct, which refers to the parent's sexual conduct and if it will adversely impact the child
- Domestic violence, where there is spousal abuse and/or child abuse
- Disability, where one parent may be disabled, the court may reflect on how that disability may impact the parent's ability to care for the child
Which Best Interests of the Child Standard Applies if Custody Involves Multiple States?
Child custody determinations are decided by state courts. Wherever the case is filed, typically that state's best interests of the child standard applies. In some cases, where a genuine question as to which state can enforce a custody order exists, uniform laws like the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act may control. That, too, is determined by the state.
Keep in mind, not all states have adopted these uniform laws, but most use them as guidance.
Contact a Family Law Lawyer in New York Today
The best interests of the child standard will greatly influence your child's life as well as yours. If you have questions, need advice, or want to file a complaint for divorce, child custody, or child support, contact The Abeel Firm PLLC online or call us at (716) 250-0681 today.