September 8, 2017

What does the “best interests of the child” mean?

Most parents believe they have a pretty good idea of those things that are in the best interests of their children. They are probably right. However, in Michigan, as with many states, there is an articulable standard outlined by the legislature regarding what constitutes the “best interests of the child” for purposes of child custody.

According to the Michigan Legislature, the best interests of the child standard is the “sum total” of 11 specific factors. Each factor is reviewed by the court. These matters also help the parties to understand their responsibilities under the law. Such understanding can assist with planning and preparing for divorce and custody issues.

If you think the law is blind when it comes to love and affection, think again. The first factor listed concerns the “love, affection [and] emotional ties” between children and parents. If children are able to make such a determination, their preference for custody with a parent is also considered. Not only is the existing relationship between a parent and child considered but also a parent’s capacity to provide “love, affection, and guidance.”

Morality, mental and physical health, religion and the ability to raise children and educate them are all factors considered by the court in determining a child’s best interests. Stability and continuity, including the desirability for such, are likewise evaluated.

Another factor to be considered by parents and one that parents may sometimes overlook is the ability and capacity of parents to facilitate an ongoing and positive relationship with the other. Among other things, this means that a parent must avoid disparaging the other.