Custody is Decided Based on the Child's Best Interests; What is that?

Just about every state has a provision in its child custody laws that requires the court to base any custody decision on the best interests of the child.  Kentucky's statute can be found here and Illinois' can be found here.  Each of these statutes give a long list of elements a court is to consider in deciding what is the best interests of the child.  These include the wishes of each parent, possibly the wishes of the child, child's adjustment to his/her present environment, and several other factors.  The term "best interest" is not specifically defined in either statute.

The child's best interest is not only the basis for the judge's custody decision, ideally it is the guiding principle for healthy co-parenting between you and your ex.  Connie Whitener is a relationship columnist at the Examiner.  She has an excellent article on co-parenting along with tips and suggestions from other parents.

In Connie's article she refers to an advice letter that appeared in a Dear Abby column over twenty years ago written by Minnesota Judge Michael Haas to two separating parents.  You may have seen the image posted to the right of the column as it is one that gets passed around Facebook pretty frequently.  The full text of Judge Haas' letter is:

"Your children have come into this world because of the two of you. Perhaps you two made lousy choices as to whom you decided to be the other parent. If so, that is YOUR problem and YOUR fault.

"No matter what you think of the other party -- or what your family thinks of the other party -- these children are one-half of each of you. Remember that, because every time you tell your child what an 'idiot' his father is, or what a 'fool' his mother is, or how bad the absent parent is, or what terrible things that person has done, you are telling the child half of HIM is bad.

"That is an unforgivable thing to do to a child. That is not love! That is possession. If you do that to your children, you will destroy them as surely as if you had cut them into pieces, because that is what you are doing to their emotions.

"I sincerely hope that you do not do that to your children. Think more about your children and less about yourselves, and make yours a selfless kind of love, not foolish or selfish, or your children will suffer."

As Ms. Whitener talks about in her column, a good co-parenting agreement will include, at a minimum, the following factors:

As both Judge Haas and Ms. Whitener advise, the best advice to developing a successful co-parenting plan is to seek out the guidance of a skilled family law attorney.  If you have more questions, please contact us at the Alford Law Office.

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