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Understanding the ‘best interests of the child’

A divorce could prove stressful and complicated for North Carolina spouses. When child custody factors into the divorce proceedings, things may become even more difficult. The court looks at all the arguments presented when awarding custody. However, the ultimate goal is to determine what would be what is in the “best interests of the child.”

The child’s best interests could refer to many different things. Since each divorce case brings unique elements, the courts look at all the factors closely before deciding. The child’s age may be one such factor. For example, a younger child might have special needs that one parent might be better suited to provide.

One surprising factor is “routine.” A child may be used to going to a particular school or taking part in particular activities. In some cases, the routine would drastically change if custody went to one parent instead of the other. The courts might be less inclined to alter a positive routine.

Not surprisingly, the courts will look at the two spouses’ parenting abilities. The court might not seriously consider a parent who seems incapable of properly caring for the child for custody. The child’s safety could be at risk when under the care of a negligent parent. It’s important to note that negligence can take many forms. Not caring about the child’s education, diet or health could be deemed negligence.

Safety also plays a role in a custody decision as judges do not want to see a child suffer any harm. An emotionally or physically abusive parent would not likely receive custody. A parent who suffers from substance abuse issues might also present an unsafe environment for the child. The court may look at many different elements that contribute to or detract from a safe living environment.

Spouses seeking full custody would likely need to make a compelling argument. Providing documented and substantial proof of taking an interest in the child may influence a judge’s decision. If you’re looking to increase your custody or visitation rights, an attorney could explain your options.