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Child custody: What represents the best interests of a child?

Whenever the parents of Texas children decide to get divorced, those parents may have to deal with child custody issues. It is known that the primary concern of family courts is the best interests of the children -- but what does that actually mean? Is it merely based on a judge's interpretation, or are there some set standards for a child's best interests? There appears not to be a clear answer to that question, and in child custody negotiations, parents and children often have a different perception of the concept than that of the court.

In considering best interests, the approach should be focused on the child and his or her needs, along with social institutional and parental responsibilities to meet those needs. A study in 2000 revealed that the current judiciary system often overlooks the children's needs. This is sometimes done in favor of maintaining the presence of both parents in the lives of the children, even though the hostility between parents may jeopardize the child's best interests. While it has been found that children benefit greatly from continued support of both their parents, conditions where high levels of parental conflict are present may bring about a negative outcome.

In addition to physical needs such as healthy food, a safe place to live, exercise and more, children also have psychological, moral, spiritual and social needs. These are the areas that present the most problems in determining the best interests of the child. For children to adjust to the effects of a divorce, the primary needs are the love and support of both parents without any form of conflict or violence, along with financial security and stable daily routines. In highly contentious divorce cases, these needs are often compromised.

Texas parents who have conflicting ideas about what would be in the best interest of their children may benefit from the services provided by a family law mediator. Such a professional will facilitate negotiations between parents, which may lead to compromises made by both parties to allow the drafting of a mutually agreed-upon parenting plan. The meetings with a mediator may greatly benefit from the active participation of an experienced child custody attorney who will also ensure the legality of all documents presented to the family court.

Source: psychologytoday.com, "What Exactly Is "The Best Interest of the Child"", Edward Kruk, Feb. 22, 2015

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