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Understanding what the 'best interests of the child' doctrine

33414638_s.jpgParents involved in a divorce worry about how it will affect their children, especially when it comes to child custody. Some of the specific concerns divorcing parents in Saint Louis County experience include:

  • Will my divorce damage my children mentally and emotionally?
  • How can I know what custody arrangements are best for my kids?
  • Will my past mistakes affect my child custody rights?
  • What if my spouse tries to take our children away from me?

We know that you might not trust the court enough to make important decisions on behalf of you and your kids. While this is understandable, you may take comfort from knowing that courts across the nation strive to put children of divorce first under the best interests of the child doctrine.

That certainly sounds like a good thing, but what does it mean? Essentially, it means that courts must make decisions that put the child's "ultimate safety and well-being" above all else. This may be an adequate definition, but how does it work, and can an uninvolved judge know what is best for your kids?

If you and your spouse cannot reach a child custody agreement on your own, the judge will look at several factors to make the decision. Some of these factors include:

  • Each parent's ability to meet a child's basic needs (food, clothing, etc.)
  • The physical and mental health of each parent
  • Each parent's ability to provide a safe home for the kids
  • The child's age and gender
  • Any evidence of domestic violence
  • The expressed wishes of the child if he or she is old enough
  • Any evidence of parental substance abuse

Missouri is one of 28 states that strongly supports the integrity of the family unit and works to preserve parent/child relationships. However, if you are still concerned about how your divorce will affect your kids, consider taking your questions to a child custody attorney. In the meantime, continue browsing our website to learn more.

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