“Best interests of the child” – What does it mean?

Courts make a variety of decisions concerning the physical placement and custody of children. These placements include custody and visitation arrangements between parents and/or grandparents, placement with the Department of Social Services, and termination of parental rights proceedings. The concept that all of these decisions have in common is the fundamental principle of the child’s best interests. But how does a judge determine what is in a child’s best interests? 

North Carolina General Statute § 50-13.2 requires a judge to make custody determinations that will “best promote the interest and welfare of the child.” Although there is no specific definition of “best interests”, there are several factors that a judge may weigh and consider in making a determination regarding custody or placement of a child. 

The Main Considerations for the Child’s Best Interests:

  • The child’s physical safety;
  • The child’s physical, mental, emotional, moral, and spiritual health; and
  • The child’s social development

The judge may additionally consider any other factor that may be relevant in deciding the placement or custody of the child(ren). In North Carolina, the most commonly considered factors include: 

  • The child’s ties to a home, school, and community;
  • The child’s relationship with each parent (or third-party, including grandparents);
  • The child’s relationship with extended family; 
  • The respective ability and willingness of each parent to provide physically, emotionally, therapeutically, spiritually, and financially for the child; 
  • The ability and willingness of each parent to co-parent with the other; 
  • The physical, emotional, and mental health of each parent; 
  • The ability of the parent to provide a safe and stable home environment for the child; 
  • Any history of alcohol or drug abuse of the parent(s); 
  • Any history of domestic violence in the presence of the child; 
  • The wishes of the child (if old enough) 

What Does This Mean:

It is important to note that these factors focus on the best interests of the child, not the parent. Ultimately, a judge must make a decision that will best promote the child’s best interests, even if that decision is not in the parent’s best interests. 

When you’re involved in a custody battle, you have to know what evidence to present to prove that your desired custody arrangement is best for your child. The attorneys at Morris & Fox are knowledgeable about all the best interest factors that are important to a judge and know what evidence is best to prove these factors. Contact us today and allow our attorneys to guide your family through your custody battle.