The Best Interests of the Child

The court decides what the best interests of the child are based on several important but changeable factors. There is not a set classification for the term. On the contrary, judges accept a broad definition that incorporates the provisions which are most expedient for the children. In fact, thirty-four states do not even clearly delineate which provisions qualify for being in the best interests of the child. Although the meaning for the legal term is broad and unqualified, there is a basic understanding that each state ultimately wants what is best for the child.

The Variations of State Laws

Since there is no set definition for the "best interests of the child," the laws vary across the states. In sixteen states, judges consider the safety of the child a main factor in determining the best interests. Twenty-four states try to keep the child from moving away from home. Only eight states take domestic violence into account when deciding the best interests of the child. Nine states prioritize the child's nurturing so that the child will develop competence in the event that the child has to move away from home.

Another important factor is the physical, financial and mental ability of the parents to provide for the needs of the children. If a parent is financially unstable or mentally incompetent, he or she will be less likely to be selected as the primary caretaker of the children. The children's feelings and desires are considered in five states and Washington D.C. There are three states which clearly state things which should not play into the decision; these states are Connecticut, Delaware and Idaho.

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