What Are the Best Interests of a Child?

Every U.S. state requires child custody decisions to reflect a child’s best interests. However, it proposes some critical questions such as: What is an interest of a child? Where will the child live? How should the child be raised? Where should the child reside, and with whom?

These questions can seem impossible to answer, mainly because they appear to be a matter of opinion: Oregon and other states guide by setting forth guidelines and examples of the child’s best interests.

What Does The Phrase “Best Interests of the Child” Mean?

At first glance, the phrase “best interests of the child” may seem straightforward. An Oregon court expects child custody decisions based on the child’s upbringing. 

However, explaining what’s best for any child raises grounds for an argument to explode. Even people who agree on the general idea of what is best for a child may disagree strongly on what those ideas look like in practice. 

Fortunately, divorcing parents don’t have to figure out what would be the perfect, ideal situation for any child anywhere. They only have to focus on the best options for their children in the current situation. Oregon’s factors for considering the child’s best interest also help parents find promising possibilities for their children. 

Oregon’s Factors For Considering The Best Interests of the Child

As a couple undergoes a divorce or legal separation, the child’s living situation may need to change. The child’s best interests need to be figured out through arbitration, mediation, or divorce. Now, what does the best living situation for a child look like? To answer that question in a divorce and child custody case, Oregon courts examine six factors:

The emotional ties between the child and other family members. For example, infants and toddlers often have the closest emotional connection with the parent who has been their primary caregiver. Older children may also have a stronger bond with one parent. 

The parents’ interest and attitude toward the child. Ideally, both parents will be invested in their child’s growth and want to be a significant part of the child’s life. Oregon courts don’t assume all parents are ideal, however. Instead, they look at how the parents behave. 

Maintaining a relationship with the child. Although a healthy relationship between a parent and child is essential, it is sometimes crucial for one parent to obtain custody over the other if the other parent may hinder the child’s physical, mental, and emotional safety. This factor becomes particularly important if there is evidence that one parent has abused or neglected a child. 

Whether one parent has abused the other. Abusive behavior tends to run in families as a reoccurring pattern. If a history of abuse exists, the court will ask questions about the safety of the abused parent and the child.

Keeping children with their primary caregivers. Staying with the primary parent is viewed as beneficial sometimes because the primary caregiver typically knows all the necessary details of the child’s life, such as medication schedules, upcoming appointments, school concerns, clothing sizes, and more. 

Each parent’s willingness to maintain a relationship with the other parent. Is each parent willing and able to work together with the other parent to do what’s best for the child? Can each parent set aside their feelings to focus on the child’s needs? Can they manage conflict with the child’s other parent in a productive way? Oregon courts do not require divorcing parents to like each other or get along outside of the parenting relationship. However, when it comes to raising a child, working together helps ensure that each parent is doing their best for the child.

How To Focus On Your Child’s Best Interests During a Divorce

Addressing child custody, visitation, and parenting time can be emotionally challenging. Emotions may run high. Here are a few ways to help yourself stay focused on what’s best for your child:

Center yourself. Child custody decisions can be emotional minefields. Ensure you meet your basic needs with adequate sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Therapy or similar forms of support may be precious if you struggle to separate your child’s needs from your emotional challenges during this time. 

Be realistic about what you can and cannot offer. Questions about your child’s best interests aren’t questions about how much you love your child. They are questions about the practical realities of your situation. You may wish to give your children the moon and all the stars – but if they will be healthier living with their other parent for a while, it’s essential to recognize that fact. 

Put yourself in your child’s shoes. They need access to basics: Food, shelter, clothing, and supervision. They need a regular schedule and boundaries they can rely on. They need proper engagement to encourage curiosity, friendships, and interests. They need to know the adults in their lives will be there for them – no matter what. A parenting plan created in the child’s best interests will guarantee these basics.

To schedule a consultation with one of our divorce attorneys in Oregon or SW Washington, call us now at 503.222.9116 or write us.

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