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Child custody: What are the best interests of the child?

When it comes to children in a divorce, each state has different laws. However, in California, as elsewhere, the best interests of a child will always be the primary consideration when decisions are made about child custody. The criteria of each state might show slight variances, but the general principle is the same.

When determining the child's best interests, the current situation related to the primary caretaker will be considered along with circumstances related to the care of the child prior to the divorce filing. The court will look at the safety of the child, and any potential of parental violence will be noted. Another aspect that will play a role is the existing relationship of the child with each parent, and any particular attachment to one parent may influence the decision.

The general physical and mental health of the parents will be assessed, and the court will look at their drinking, smoking and drug habits. In most cases, the court will consider the preference of children who are old enough to express and motivate their wishes -- typically at age 12 and older. Lastly, the financial situations of both parents will be evaluated to determine the most appropriate way to order child custody and support.

Although the court always determines child support, parents in an amicable divorce may choose to negotiate child custody and parenting plans. This could be done with or without the help of a mediator. However, using the support and guidance of an experienced divorce attorney can ease the process. Once the parents have reached an agreement, the attorney can present it to the court for approval, and if it is determined that the arrangements are in the best interest of the child, a child custody order will be issued.

Source:, "Child Custody USA", Accessed on Aug. 11, 2017

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