Rights of Parents or Best Interest of Children?
Recommended Considerations in Child Custody Decisions
Relative willingness to provide access to the other parent should not be the only, or even the major consideration when deciding child custody matters and visitation schedules. There are many other very important factors that influence the how a given child will fare under various custody arrangements. If the Family Court is truly concerned about the best interest of each child who comes before the Court, it is incumbant upon the Court to look at all of these variables. Assuming that neither parent is abusive or negligent, considerations should include:
- Age of the child (the younger the child, the more age matters; it is a particularly important consideration for children under the age of three)
- Psychological resilience or fragility of the child
- Who was the child’s primary caretaker from birth until present time
- Bonding between child and (each) parent
- Quality of nurturance and parenting skills of each parent
- Child’s preference, if any
- Whether the child has siblings that move between parents along with the child
- Parents’ schedules and availability
- Level of conflict between parents
- Each parent’s willingness to provide access to the other parent
- Geographic distance between parents
- Proximity of resources to meet the child’s needs (school, doctor, etc.)
This requires more work on the part of the court system to evaluate these factors and weigh their relative importance for each child instead of relying on a one-size-fits-all formula with only one (or very few) consideration(s). It requires more cost to utilize professional evaluators (child psychologists, social workers, etc). But the outcome for the mental and emotional health of the children concerned far outweighs the extra cost and inconvenience to the Court.