Applying the best interest doctrine in child custody disputes

On Behalf of | Aug 17, 2021 | Child Custody

When child custody disputes in Texas and around the country are settled in court, judges make their decisions based on the best interests of the child doctrine. When determining what is in the best interests of the child is difficult because the parents involved are embroiled in a bitter conflict and have conflicting accounts, judges may ask to hear from experts like child psychologists before ruling. They also consider the age of the child and his or her siblings and the behavior and attitude of the parents.

Shared custody

Judges also consider academic studies when making child custody decisions, which is why they prefer shared parenting plans whenever possible. This is especially true when the child is young and prolonged separation from either parent could be traumatic. When older children are involved, judges may pay more attention to factors like the child’s preferences and social life and the quality of the relationships they have with each of their parents and their siblings. They also try to keep siblings together unless there is evidence of bullying that could place the child in danger.

Sole custody and visitation

While shared custody arrangements are preferred, judges may still award sole physical custody in situations where one of the parents has a history of domestic violence, mental health issues or drug or alcohol abuse. If the threat to the child is considered serious, judges could determine that supervised visitation is in the best interests of the child. Sole custody with visitation could also be ordered in situations where one of the parents is not able to provide the child with adequate care because of a grueling work schedule, but judges may modify these arrangements if the situation changes.

Avoiding court

Child custody disputes should be avoided whenever possible because they can be psychologically damaging to all parties involved. When parents are unable to reach an agreement and a court battle seems all but inevitable, taking an alternative approach could lead to a breakthrough. Mediators are conflict resolution specialists, and they may remind parents that the welfare of their child is at stake and help them to find common ground.