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Best Interests of the Child

Defining the Phrase "Best Interests of the Child"


Girl (10-11) holding fathers hands outdoors.
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Parents seeking child custody or visitation often hear the phrase "best interests of the child" referred to as the primary factor used to determine who will win the child custody or visitation case. Often, parents may wonder what this phrase really means. In addition, since it is one of the main factors considered in any custody case, parents who more fully understand what "best interests" refer to will go into a child custody or visitation proceeding better prepared.

Technically, each state's definition of the best interests of a child varies. However, in general, use of the phrase "best interests of the child" usually refer to:

  • A determination used by the court to decide who is the best person to care for a child

  • A determination of a child's needs and who is the best person to meet the child's needs

  • A determination of how much it may cost to care for a child

  • Any extenuating circumstances that can affect a child's welfare and well-being

For more information about what your state may consider to be a child's best interests, refer to your state's child custody guidelines or speak with a qualified attorney in your jurisdiction.

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