You may have heard that courts look for the best interests of the child in divorce cases. But what does that really mean?
In a lot of cases, it just means as little change as possible. The parents, not the child, chose to get divorced. It’s a huge change for them, and the court tries to limit the impact on the child.
For instance, the child’s school may factor in. If living with Mom means the child stays in the same class, with the same friends, that may give her an edge if living with Dad means switching to a new school and starting over.
Courts also look for consistency in scheduling. They don’t want the child to be thrown into a chaotic whirlwind of change. If kids are used to certain child care situations or seeing extended family members on certain days, they’ll try to keep that going.
When children are old enough, their own desires come into play. A 15-year-old may really value staying in the same neighborhood and not losing close friends. This is especially important if they live within walking distance, since a 15-year-old can’t drive. Again, courts don’t want to make negative changes in a child’s life unless there is no other choice.
Granted, divorce is going to bring about changes. It has to. Scheduling will be different. Parents who split custody see the child alone, and he or she may now live in two different houses.
In this sense, courts are realistic. They’re not trying to eliminate all change, but to reduce it when they can. At these times, it’s important for parents and children to know their legal rights.
Source: The Spruce, “Understand the “Best Interests of the Child” Standard,” Jennifer Wolf, accessed Dec. 06, 2017