In any divorce proceeding, a big concern for the court is the best interest of the child. As a parent, you yourself are likely very concerned about how to organize a new, divorced life ahead of you and how to best show up for your child in these changed circumstances. There are several steps you can take right now, even before starting the process of any divorce, to ensure the best interest of your child. This blog will give a detailed explanation of how New York courts interpret the best interest standard and offer information on what you can begin today in preparation. You’re probably particularly worried if you are concerned about a possible divorce in your future. Don’t hesitate to contact a Suffolk County family law attorney. We’ve helped client after client get the best and most stress-free results possible.
Understanding the Best Interest of the Child
First of all, if you and your ex-spouse can work together successfully on a parenting plan to be enforced after the divorce, the court may not need to do an exhaustive analysis of the best interest of the child. A judge is allowed to reject a parenting plan should they, in their discretion, decide that the plan goes against the child’s best interest. But barring that, courts tend to give parents leeway to decide.
Instead, a judge will step in when the parents cannot agree. That is when the judge will decide on several aspects, guided by their determination of what the best interest of the child is.
The “best interest of the child” standard has no cut-and-dry definition. Rather, courts look at a series of factors to determine what the child’s needs are and which parents can best provide for those needs.
Some of those include:
- How capable is each parent of providing a stable life for their child?
- Does each parent have a childcare arrangement set up for when they cannot watch their child?
- Which parent is the primary caregiver for the child?
- Is there a history of abuse, neglect, or interference by one parent in the relationship of the child with the other parent that limits time together?
The court is allowed to consider almost any topic that it considers relevant to the question of the child’s best interest.
Protecting My Child’s Best Interest
There are several documents you can prepare far ahead of time to show the court why the child would be happy, safe, and well-cared for in your home.
- Parenting records: Records will be very important in showing the judge your care and concern as a parent. Have separate documents for each topic, if that’s helpful. You should keep track of how much time you spend with your child, as well as keep track of everything you do for your child in that time. Another useful record would track how much money you spend on your child’s needs.
- Parenting proposals: You should prepare a parenting plan with your ex-spouse. Before that, it would be good to get a written proposal ready that you can present to your ex-spouse. You might even consider a step-up parenting plan, which slowly increases the amount of time the child spends with the non-custodial parent. You can also write up a visitation schedule. All of these proposals should be fair to the other parent, as pushing for excessive control might convince the judge against you.