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How child custody is determined

Parents who are approaching child custody concerns should be familiar with the best interests of the child standard and what that means for them and their child. The family law process provides resources to help guide parents through the child custody process and develop a child custody arrangement that is based on the best interests of the child.

Child custody arrangements should always support the best interests of the child which in a broad sense means that the child custody arrangement fosters the child's happiness, security, mental health and emotional development throughout childhood. Using the best interests of the child standard, which the family law court uses if it is making child custody determinations and parents developing a child custody agreement will also need to follow, helps maintain a focus on ensuring whatever child custody arrangement is developed ensures the child's overall well-being.

A variety of factors are considered when determining what is in the best interests of the child. Factors that may be evaluated include the age and sex of the child; the wishes of the child in some circumstances; the mental and physical health of the parents; any special needs of the child and the ability of each of the parents to meet those needs; other children who may impact the child's custody arrangement; the relationships the child has with other members of the household; opportunity for the child to interact and enjoy support from extended family members; the need for a continuous and stable home environment; adjustment to school and community; religious and cultural concerns; and any evidence of abuse.

The best interests of the child standard is beneficial for parents to be familiar with and is used to develop child custody arrangements that are best for the child. Knowing how child custody decisions are made can help parents understand what to anticipate as they oftentimes have understandable concerns around child custody.

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