A person can hear it in court or find it in custody papers. The “best interest of the child” is a phrase courts use to acknowledge that the decisions made and agreed to will help provide the child with the essential needs to live a stable, healthy and happy life.
All states have their statutes regarding what judges look for when determining who cares for the child and how the parents may work in conjunction to give the child stability. Maryland’s Family Code outlines how the courts choose the child’s best interests.
In Maryland, judges use a standard to look at several factors when deciding what is best for the child. Judges consider the following when deciding on which parent the child will live with.
- Fitness of the parent
- Character and reputation
- The child’s preference
- Age, sex and health of the child
- Parents’ residences
- Impact of prior voluntary abandonment or surrender of custody
- Religious views
The judge’s decision gets put into an agreement that lists how the parents will take care of the child. This parenting plan also addresses common causes of conflict, such as:
- Parenting time
- Making important future decisions
- Resolving other conflicts
Joint custody factors
The court also considers additional factors that pertain to joint custody agreements. The consideration involves:
- The willingness of both parents to share custody
- Physical and psychological health
- The bond between the child and each parent
- Number of children involved in the agreement
- Parents’ employment
Barring child safety issues such as abuse, endangerment or abandonment, Maryland judges give both parents the right to parenting time. Both parents and the judge may work together to create the best outcome for a child’s present and future life.