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How Does the Best Interest of the Child Standard Impact Child Custody?

How Does the Best Interest of the Child Standard Impact Child Custody?

The main concern for the court during all child custody proceedings in New York State is the best interest of the child. However, there is no set definition of what the best interest of the child means. In general, it refers to the factors the judge will take into consideration before awarding custody and visitation rights. Essentially, it also allows the court to review the abilities of each parent to meet the needs of the child.

Best Interest of the Child Factors

It is rare for the court to only take one factor into consideration before granting custody. Instead, the court will look to several factors to make a custody decision based on the totality of factors. These factors include but are not limited to the following:


Priority will be given to the stable parent who can provide a nurturing and safe home life for the child. For example, if you raised the child while your co-parent left, the court would be more likely to weigh in your favor.

Parenting skills

The court may consider how supportive you are as a parent before awarding custody. Your ability to parent your child effectively and safely will also be taken into consideration.

Childcare plan/arrangements and work schedule

Your work schedule could impact custody and visitation time. If one parent has a work schedule which allows him/her to spend more time with the child, the courts will look favorably on this. Additionally, your childcare arrangements will also be brought up. If your childcare arrangement is more likely to offer the child a safe and nurturing environment to spend time in while you are away, this could work in your favor.

Primary care giver or nurturer

The primary caretaker or nurture of the child will be given priority in a divorce or separation. If one parent spent more time raising and caring for the child, he/she will be more likely to be awarded custody.

Substance abuse

Evidence of substance abuse and alcohol misuse can sway the court against you as it puts the child at risk.

Mental and physical health of each parent

The court will consider if either parent has a history of mental illness, personality disorders, emotional instability, or anything else that could negatively impact the child’s wellbeing.

Severe physical illness or a disability that could affect a parent’s ability to care for a child could affect a custody award.

History of domestic violence

Any history of domestic abuse, including but not limited to spousal abuse, child abuse, neglect, and abandonment will impact a custody award. The parent who committed such abuse is much less likely to receive custody or visitation rights. Supervised visitation may be an option in some cases. Also, evidence that one parent interfered with visitation rights could cause that parent to lose custody.

Child’s preference

The court will take the child’s preferences into consideration after looking closely into why the child would prefer to live with one parent over the other.

Each parent’s financial situation

It is important for the child’s parent(s) to be able to provide for him/her financially. If one parent is unable to afford housing or food for the child, this could have a negative impact on custody determinations.

Home environment

Courts want to avoid putting a child in a household that places them in danger. Inappropriate behavior within the home environment is also grounds for not awarding a parent custody, which may include frequent raucous parties, instances of domestic violence, or the presence of dangerous items within the household.

Educational opportunities

If one parent can provide the child with better education opportunities, such a private schooling or special needs school (in situations where this applies), then this could also affect custody.

Where the child’s siblings live/relationship with siblings

Courts like to keep siblings together whenever possible as the court system understands the importance of growing up with a sibling. A sibling provides additional love, care, support, and attention for the other child.

Each parent’s ability to cooperate with the other parent

The court will observe how the parents interact with one another – including how their behavior is in court. A judge is more likely to award custody to the parent who wants to continue to foster a positive relationship with the other parent.

Additionally, the court will also take into consideration any other factors it deems important before awarding child custody and visitation.

If you need assistance navigating your child custody matter, contact our firm online or via (914) 873-4410.