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What does best interests of the child really mean?

The best interests of the child is a commonly-used term in family law matters, particularly when courts are hearing child custody petitions. According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, no all-inclusive definition of the term exists. However, with a little information, you can develop an understanding of the ways this terminology applies to child custody decisions.

Courts in Pennsylvania and other states use "best interests" to determine who can best care for the child as well as which actions or orders to take on the child's behalf. The court will typically take a variety of factors into account when determining what actions are in the child's best interests. These may include but are not limited to the following:

-- Capacity to provide care for the child-- Emotional ties the child has with parents, caregivers and siblings-- The mental and physical health of the parents-- The medical and mental health needs of the child-- Whether domestic violence is present in the child's home

Pennsylvania is one of several states that pays special attention to a child's emotional bonds with siblings and other family members. Whenever possible, Pennsylvania courts will consider the feasibility of maintaining these close family relationships when determining custody and other important decisions.

Even though courts across the country take custody decisions very seriously, it is in the parents' and the child's best interests to acquire legal representation whenever possible. An attorney can help one or even both parents who want to care for their children make positive appearances in the courtroom. This can go a long way toward convincing a Pennsylvania judge that you are the right one to gain custody and provide for your child's needs.

Source: ChildWelfare.gov, "Determining the Best Interests of the Child" Dec. 16, 2014

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