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Understanding how child custody is determined

There are several different types of child custody arrangements that may be beneficial for families and children in different circumstances. Regardless of how child custody is determined, the focus is always on achieving what is in the best interests of the child. The parents may agree to child custody or the court may determine child custody for the family but in either circumstance, what is in the best interests of the child is always the guiding principle for child custody determinations. 

The focus for what is in the best interests of the child is on the happiness, security, mental health and emotional development of the child. There are a variety of factors that may be evaluated to determine what child custody arrangement will be in the best interests of the child. Considerations that may be evaluated include the mental and physical health of the parents; if the child has any special needs and the ability of each of the parents to care for the needs of the child; religious and cultural considerations; adjustment to school and community; and the need for a continued, stable, home environment. 

In addition, considerations that will also be evaluated include other children who are relevant to the custody arrangement; the child's interaction or interrelationship with other members of the household; the opportunity for interactions with the child's extended family, including grandparents; the age and sex of the child; the wishes of the child, depending on the circumstances; and if there is any evidence of abuse or if one of the parents has a drug or alcohol problem. Different considerations may be more important in certain families than others which is why the court evaluates a number of factors to determine what is in the best interests of the child. 

It is essential that the parents and all parties involved remain focused on the best interests of the child when resolving child custody concerns or disputes. The family law process provides different resources to help facilitate the establishment of child custody agreements that foster what is in the best interests of the child and will help ensure the child's overall well being. 

Source: Family.findlaw.com, "Focusing on the 'Best Interests' of the Child," Accessed Dec. 13, 2016 

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