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What factors are considered in the best interests of the child?

When arriving at the best interests of the child in child custody situations, there are several factors the courts look to for guidance to determine what is in the best interests of the child and to, in turn, make child custody determinations. Some parents may be left wondering, then, what factors are considered when the best interests of the child are determined and important child custody decisions are made?

The best interests of the child generally refers to the determination of who is best suited to care for the child and what services, actions and decisions by the court will most benefit the child. A number of factors may be considered in making the determination of what is in the best interests of the child. Both the child's circumstances, and the circumstances of the parent, may be considered, as well as the parent or caretaker's ability and capacity to parent. Although the best interests of the child is the guiding principle for making child custody determinations, the child's well-being, overall welfare and safety will always guide those determinations.

In Minnesota, general guidance is provided to the courts to determine the best interests of the child. This allows the courts more discretion to consider a variety of relevant factors to determine what is in the best interests of the child. Factors that may be considered can include the relationship the child has with family and the importance of keeping the child in its home. Considerations related to religion, community and school, as well as any necessary adjustments, may also be made. The capacity of the parent or caretaker to provide a home with adequate food, clothing and medical care may also be considered. The mental and physical health and needs of both the child and parents may be considered.

Child custody determinations can be emotional for families. By understanding what considerations guide child custody determinations, parents may be able to better focus on achieving the best interests of the child along with the court and family law process.

Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway, "Determining the Best Interests of the Child," Accessed August 14, 2014

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