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What are 'the child's best interests' in a child custody dispute?

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Many divorces occur in Arizona each year, with various legal issues coming to the forefront depending on each case's unique circumstances. However, one of the most contested divorce legal issues is child custody. Quite often, parents have heated, emotion-fueled debates about what is best for the child and, in fact, that is how a court settles the matter if parents are unable to do so. But what are the best interests of the child and how is that standard assessed?

This is a question that we often receive, and one that is not always answered easily. This is particularly so because every child and every situation is different. However, the courts have gathered a set of factors that they use to help them determine what is in the best interests of the child. Amongst them are the child's desire if he or she is old enough to enunciate a preference, each parent's health, history of domestic violence, history of substance abuse, the child's bond with each parent, and the financial stability needed by the child and provided by each parent's household.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but can be used by divorcing parents to help them start to think about the child custody process. By analyzing these factors ahead of time, it may be easier to determine if sole custody with visitation rights is appropriate or if a shared custody arrangement is better. However, one must always remember that the ultimate purpose of a child custody decision is to provide the child with a safe and happy living arrangement.

Since child custody can be so difficult to handle and legal arguments must be tailored to the specific case, individuals who have questions about this area of law should speak to a family law attorney rather than rely on this article. By doing this, a divorcing parent can feel confident that they are moving forward in a way that they feel comfortable and that protects his or her child's best interests.

Source: FindLaw, "Focusing on the 'Best Interests' of the Child," accessed on Aug. 8, 2014

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