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How do courts decide children’s best interests for child custody?

All children are special and have unique preferences and needs. When parents end a marriage, they may be concerned about how their divorce will impact their children. They may worry about how the ongoing changes in their children’s lives may affect the children’s happiness and the way they interact with others. Child custody planning is important because it helps parents and courts protect children from the uncertainty of a post-divorce future.

At the heart of all child custody matters is the best interests of the children. Courts in Utah use this standard to decide what will work best for individual children. A discussion of best interests will be included in this post. However, as with all articles on this blog, readers should not use this post as legal advice.

Factors in determining children’s best interests

Courts are required to ask a lot of questions to the parents – and sometimes even the children – to determine the children’s best interests. These questions focus on the children and their needs, the parents and their parenting abilities, and other important issues. Topics considered when determining a child’s best interests can include:

  • The role the parents played in raising the child before divorcing;
  • The health and wellness of the child;
  • The proximity of the parents’ post-divorce homes to each other; and
  • The presence of abuse or neglect in the family.

Once a court understands a child’s situation, it can establish a plan for the legal and physical custody of the child.

Legal and physical child custody

Legal and physical child custody are both important sets of rights that parents can retain after a divorce. Legal custody allows a parent to be involved in the decision-making processes related to their child’s medical, educational, and spiritual care. Physical custody is a parent’s right to have their child live with them either some or all of the time.

How a court looks at the above-mentioned factors will impact a parent’s post-divorce parenting rights. Determining child custody can be a daunting process, and no parent has to go into it alone. Interested parents should seek counsel and support from knowledgeable Utah family law attorneys.

 

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