What Constitutes a Child’s Best Interests in Divorce?

When parents divorce, a number of decisions are made that affect the children of the marriage. Among these decisions are the primary place of residence, time-sharing and custody issues, and, in some cases, the issue of relocation with one parent. When these decisions fall on the shoulders of a court -- as opposed to being decided by the parents -- the court employs the standard of best interest of the child to guide the decision process. This phrase intentionally leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

What does the court consider?

In determining the best interests of the child, the state of Michigan provides these guidelines to be used to decide the custody of a minor child:

  • Ability to provide -- A court does not necessarily measure opulence as a determining factor in custody matters, but does consider the ability and willingness of each parent to provide a child-friendly and appropriate home in a community that offers educational and enrichment opportunities as well as social peers.
  • Rapport -- The relationship between the parent and the child is of utmost importance to the court. It is essential that a parent provide a loving and supportive environment, free of violence, abuse and neglect.
  • Child's preference -- When a child is of the age and maturity level to state a preference for one residence over another, the court considers --but is not bound by -- the child's preference.
  • Stability and consistency -- A court is reluctant to uproot a child -- especially in the aftermath of a divorce -- unless there is a very compelling reason. If the child has lived happily for a sustained period of time in one home, it is likely the court will desire to preserve this type of stability.
  • Mental and physical health -- Ideally, a child is placed in a home that is governed by a physically and mentally healthy parent who is not abusing drugs or alcohol, who is not debilitated by depression or anxiety and who is mentally capable of parenting.

The ideal scenario is one in which every child has two loving and capable parents, and children share time between them equally. Consult with a family law attorney in Bloomfield Hills if you are a divorcing parent.