best interests (of the child)

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Best interests of the child refers to the test courts use when they make decisions that affect a child such as child custody, visitation, etc. In disputes over child custody, the judge will make a decision based on the child’s best interests. 23 U.S. jurisdictions list in their statutes the factors courts will consider in deciding what’s in the best interest of the child. But in general, the court will consider these main factors: the child’s age, gender, mental and physical health of the parents, ties between the parent and the child, the child’s preference, and ability of the parent to provide the child with shelter, food, clothing, education, financial support, and medical care. The court examines all of these factors, not just one or two, in order to make the best determination for the child. 

California Welfare & Institution Code § 361.3 provides that when a parent loses physical custody of their child, there will be preference shown to a relative of the child who requests custody of the child. In the case In re M.H., 21 Cal. App. 5th 1296, the court stated that just because the child has a relative who requests custody, it does not mean placing the child with the relative will be in the best interest of the child. If a child were placed in a foster home and had time to build a bond with their foster parent, that will be heavily considered as the court wants the child to maintain stability. 

[Last updated in June of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]