The Best Interest of the Child Standard

By David Hammond

Child custody decisions in New York are guided by the best interest of the child standard. When custody disputes arise and parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, the court will step in to resolve things. To do so, the court will determine what is in the best interest of the child through the use of a number of different factors.

The Best Interest of the Child Standard

It is clear that the best interest of the child standard plays a critical role in New York custody proceedings. It is the guidepost the court follows to reach custody decisions. Thus, it is critical for parents involved in such disputes to be familiar with the factors the court will likely consider in resolving child custody issues. As you may have guessed, many of the factors focus on the ability of each parent to support and care for the physical and emotional needs of the child.

For instance, the court will consider the ability of each to provide suitable child care arrangements. It is often the case that both parents have to work and so child custody preferences may be given to that parent that can adequately provide child care for the child while he or she is at work. Preference may also be given to the parent who has played the role of primary caretaker of the child prior to the parents’ divorce or separation. The primary caretaker refers to that parent that spent significantly more time caring for the child and participating in other activities with the child, often while the other parent worked.

Any evidence of drug or alcohol abuse or misuse can also impact child custody decisions. The parent found to be struggling with substance abuse problems may be less likely to receive custody of the child. Evidence of any untreated mental illness personality disorders or emotional instability will also count against a parent in child custody proceedings. In addition to the mental health of each parent, the physical health of each parent may also be considered in resolving child custody disputes.

It is also important to note that the court will likely consider what custody arrangement would provide the child with the most stability. This can mean that should a child already be living with one parent, then the court may want the child to remain with that parent in their home as opposed to changing the custody and living arrangements. If the custody arrangement is already working, the court may be hesitant to disrupt things.

In certain instances, the preference of the child will be taken into consideration. This can greatly depend on the age of the child, will children closer to 18 years having more weight given to their preferences. The court, however, will closely scrutinize the reasons behind a child’s preference. After all, a court will be wary of giving significant weight to a child’s preference if that preference is built solely on something like preferring one parent because they do not have any rules in their house.

Other factors the court may consider in determining the best interest of the child include:

  • Evidence of spousal abuse
  • The financial health of each parent
  • The home environment each parent can provide
  • The educational opportunities each parent can provide
  • Court observations of the parents
  • Any other factor that might impact the best interests of the child

Syracuse Family Law Attorneys

If you are in the midst of child custody issues, do not delay in reaching out to CDH Law for assistance. When it comes to matters of children and family, you need dedicated legal counsel who will work tirelessly to advocate on your behalf. Contact us today.

About the Author
David is a former military prosecutor and defense lawyer with over a decade of experience fighting for service members and their families. He served nine years and two combat tours as an active duty US Army officer, then joined the Reserves and settled down in Syracuse to be near family. Now representing people across Central New York charged with serious felonies, misdemeanors, DWIs, and traffic offenses, he puts the same level of commitment into his civilian law practice. If you have any questions regarding this article, you can contact David here.