Best Interest Factors: What are they?

Whether the court is determining the initial child custody order, or modifying the order after a judgment has been entered, they will consider the “best interest factors.” The best interest factors help the referee or judge determine what custody or parenting time arrangement is truly in the best interests of the children.

Some factors may favor you, or they may favor your spouse. The amount of weight given to each factor is a matter of interpretation for the judge or referee.

You may want to review these factors and consider the potential strengths and weaknesses in your case. This will allow us to formulate a strategic approach to securing custody of your children.

The Best Interest Factors:

• (a) The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parties involved and the child
This factor focuses on the emotional bond that already exists between the parent and the child.

• (b) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue the education and raising of the child in his or her religion or creed, if any.

This factor tries to project the parent’s ability to foster an emotional bond in the future, and the parent’s impact on such matters as education, guidance, and religious training.

• (c) The capacity and disposition of the parties involved to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in place of medical care, and other material needs.

• (d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity.

• (e) The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home or homes.

This factor focuses solely on the permanence of the family environment, not the acceptability of the home or child care arrangements.

• (f) The moral fitness of the parties involved.

This factor evaluates the parties’ moral fitness only as it relates to how they will function as a parent and not as to who is the morally superior adult.

• (g) The mental and physical health of the parties involved.

This factor should not impair or defeat the public policy goal of integrating disabled persons into the mainstream of society.

• (h) The home, school, and community record of the child.

• (i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express preference.

The court must take the preference of the child into account if it decides that the child is old enough to express a preference. The court is not required to disclose the child’s preference. The child’s preference does not automatically outweigh other factors; it is only one element used to make the determination.

• (j) The willingness and ability of each of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent or the child and the parents.

• (k) Domestic violence, regardless of whether the violence was directed against or witnessed by the child.

• ( l ) Any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to a particular child custody dispute.