While it makes sense that family courts want to focus on the needs of children, many Minnesota parents may be uncertain about how they determine the best interests of the child. This standard is used to make decisions about child custody and visitation, and there are a number of factors that the courts keep in mind in order to come to a conclusion about the preferable custody arrangement. In general, family courts want to make sure that both parents have an active role in their children's lives absent a situation of abuse or neglect. However, that framework can look different for various families based on their needs and circumstances.
One factor that family courts assess when making child custody decisions is the parent's ability to meet the children's physical and psychological needs by providing food, shelter, health care and clothing as well as love, support and guidance. This can involve financial calculations, and the parents' mental and physical health and abilities may also be taken into consideration. Providing a safe environment is also important. Courts may be concerned, for example, about a parent living with roommates who cannot provide a separate space for the child.
The age of the children involved can also be important in custody cases. Determinations of what is needed for a safe and supportive environment can vary based on the age of the children. In some courtrooms, children can express their preferences if it is believed that they are mature enough to do so.
When parents decide to divorce, child custody issues can often be some of the most emotionally fraught. A family law attorney can work with a divorcing parent to protect the parent-child relationship and work to achieve a fair outcome.