Defining the Legal Term Best Interests of the Child

Most people are familiar with the term “best interests of the child,” but many believe it is just a colloquial expression used when discussing the needs of children. It can be, but in the legal circuits of the world, it’s a legal term that defines what a child needs. The term is used in both Canada and the United States in family law, and in many other countries as well. It comes from Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child that stipulates just what this means.

Experts like those at Heath Baker Law know that when you are involved in a custody matter, definitions of terms like “best interests of the child” can feel cumbersome to some parents. The term is a breath of fresh air to others. But what does this term really mean? Learn more about that right here.

Defining “Best Interests of the Child”

There is no one set definition of this term that applies universally and internationally. Every jurisdiction has its own set of family law rules that stipulate specifically what best interests of the child law mean in that area. Generally speaking, it refers to the rules that a court takes to determine who and what is best for the child.

A lot of factors are taken into consideration:

  • The child’s permanent residence
  • What the child wants
  • Who is best suited
  • Who is most likely to allow for access without a problem
  • Financial circumstances of each parent
  • Who is most likely to ensure the child’s life is disrupted as little as possible
  • Where is the best place for the child to ensure their quality of life stays the same

This is just a beginning list.

When Best Interests of the Child is a Problem

You aren’t the only one confused by the legal definition of this term. Many states are. California has been working on HB 2363 called the Best Interests of the Child Protection Act of 2021. This law will assume that parents split access time 50/50.

If you are going through a family law crisis, you know this could be a problem because real-life isn’t always so black and white. The delegates in California are talking about this too.

Where there is abuse, abandonment, neglect, or other negativity in the child’s life, this 50/50 rule seems to be an exercise in futility. You are in court to get what is best for your child, and if there is abuse or crime in the other home, this 50/50 rule seems to take your child’s quality of life a few steps back.

Not Every State Has the Same Best Interests of the Child Rules

Lawyers and judges know this. They intuitively know that the legal definition of “best interests of the child” is not a black and white issue. Every state has different statutes for this definition, which will complicate your confusion.

Family integrity and keeping things the same is considered in 28 states for example, but the mental needs of the child may only be considered in 9 states at this time.

Another factor complicating this is that each state handles its best interests of the child statute differently. Some may weigh every factor of their definition when making a decision, other states are only required to weigh the most important elements of the case.

Contact the Experts for Help

The exact conditions of best interests of the child law in your state might be confusing to you. Contact a lawyer for help in determining how your state handles this definition, and how this is going to impact your child’s life.


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