If you are a parent going through a divorce, chances are you are already concerned about your children’s best interests. You may or may not realize that legal decisions involving your children in family matters are actually premised on their best interests. More specifically, child custody cases use the “best interests” standard.
What is the Best Interests Standard as it applies to Child Custody?
Child custody laws are very specific when it comes to making determinations in the best interests of children. The language of NJSA 9:2-4 states that when child custody is a contemplated, both parents’ rights are considered. The statute then makes reference to the best interests of the child as follows:
- After consideration of either joint or sole custody, the court may order other custody arrangements in contemplation of the child’s best interests
- The court may appoint a guardian ad litem or assign an attorney to act in the child’s best interests.
- The judge may also order custody arrangements agreed to by the parents, unless they fail to meet the best interests of the child.
Are You Acting in Your Children’s Best Interests?
Divorce can be among the most adversarial of all legal proceedings. A New Jersey family judge sitting in Union County summed up the animosity of one well known political couple. “The hatred these two have for each other seems to override the love for the child…it’s so out of control…sad…that poor kid….I feel as I’m the only one protecting her.”
The best interests of the child should start with maternal and paternal instincts. Custody and visitation should not be about claiming victory in a divorce proceeding or hurting a former spouse. Revenge and spite have no place in considering the best interests of a child. If anything, they may act against the offending party.
How can you act in the best interests of your children? Consider these suggestions:
- Ensure that the children are physically cared for as far as shelter and food.
- Pay child support payments and keep to visitation schedules.
- Pledge a spirit of cooperation with your former spouse. Don’t forget that children know how to manipulate situations. Work together for your sanity and theirs.
- Encourage a relationship with both parents. Children are entitled to be loved by both mother and father.
- Refrain from sharing negative stories about your former spouse. You not only denigrate your ex when you speak poorly of their other parent. You also include a part of the child in the process.
- Evaluate the amount of time you have available for your child. If work makes it impossible for you to spend long hours, work on quality time.
- Don’t indulge your child with the goal of being the “popular parent.”
- Be reasonable when considering your children’s preference as far as living arrangements. It might not be anything more than their desire to stay near friends and recreational activities.
- Advocate for professional services as warranted. This could include both medical and mental health treatment.
- Be the best parent you can be.
At the Law Offices of Sam Stoia, we consider child custody and visitation a focal point of every divorce. We believe that the best interests of the child is paramount. To learn how we can help you, contact us for a complimentary consultation.