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What does “best interest of the child” mean in a custody case?

On Behalf of | Feb 5, 2024 | Child Custody

Deciding on a custody arrangement during a divorce or separation can be complicated. After you start the custody process, you may be required to attend mediation.

Mediation is a chance to reach your own agreement

Mediation is a meeting between you, your co-parent and a mediator. It is an opportunity for you to agree on a custody arrangement.

This includes decisions on legal and physical custody, transportation, communication and other details involving your child. If you cannot come to an agreement in mediation, your custody case will eventually be heard by a judge.

North Carolina law states that child custody decisions must be made according to the best interest of the child. This is the standard judges use when making custody orders.

The best interest of the child standard is common and used in many states.

How courts apply the best interest of the child standard

There is not a specific definition of the best interest of the child. However, the judge examines many factors to determine what custody arrangement is in a child’s best interest.

Some of these factors include:

  • Each parent’s ability to care for the child
  • Each parent’s living situation
  • The child’s relationship with each parent

Other factors include any history of domestic abuse, criminal activity or drug or alcohol addiction.

It is easy to focus on the other parent’s shortcomings when trying to argue that it is in your child’s best interest to live with you. However, you should not build your custody case solely around what is bad about the other parent.

Preparing to make your case

The goal is to show the court what your child’s needs are and why you are the parent best equipped to meet those needs. You can convince a court that being with your co-parent is not in your child’s best interest but you must still prove that being with you is.

Proving your case involves preparation, planning and organization. This will help you present the best case possible to the judge and increase the chance of a decision in your favor.