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What are 'the best interests of the child'?

Parents across Louisiana will typically do whatever they can to protect the relationship they have with their children. Because of this, battling over custody rights of a child can become extremely contentious when parents do not get along. In these situations, parents are often acting out of anger, fear, resentment and sadness which can cloud their judgment.

What this means is that parents are, understandably, biased when it comes to assessing the needs of their child and their ability to fulfill all those needs. This is why the courts and legal parties like mediators and attorneys can be so important in a child custody case; they help secure an arrangement that protects the best interests of the child. But what, exactly, does that mean?

Generally speaking, "the best interests of the child" is a phrase that refers to factors that support and encourage a child's welfare, happiness and development. More specifically, these factors typically include:

  1. Where a child wants to live
  2. The relationship the child has with each parent
  3. Established social relationships and community ties a child may have
  4. The ability of each parent to meet the physical and emotional needs of the child
  5. Stability of a child's living situation
  6. Whether a child is safe in the home environment
  7. Protection of specific religious or cultural traditions

If any of these factors or environments cause harm to a child's physical, emotional or mental well-being, it would not be in the best interests of the child to be exposed to that particular situation.

It can be incredibly difficult for a parent to be objective when it comes to assessing these factors, especially when he or she doesn't like or trust the other parent. That is why the decision is made by or with the approval of courts.

This is not to say the decision is out of your hands if you are a parent dealing with child custody issues. You can play a significant role in the outcome of a custody arrangement by working with an attorney who can guide you through mediation, collaborative discussions and/or litigation, if necessary, in order to secure an arrangement that is fair and protects your relationship with your child.

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