Elk Valley Times

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The ‘best interests’ of the child

In Tennessee, the “best interests” of the child forms the basis for deciding child custody. Many factors are considered by the Court as it makes its decision, including the emotional ties between the parents and child, ability to provide care, stability for the child, and the child’s preference, if he or she is over 12 years of age.

The paramount objective is fostering and encouraging the child’s happiness, security, mental health, and emotional development into young adulthood. Certainly, it’s most often in the child’s best interests to maintain a close and loving relationship with both parents, but in practicality, promoting and maintaining such relationships can be a big challenge when it comes to resolving a child custody dispute.

What factors determine the child’s best interests?

The best interests standard can be hard to define in some situations, but generally, some factors are common in most custody situations:

• The wishes of the child, if he or she is old enough to aptly express a reasonable preference;
• Mental and physical health of the parents;
• The special needs of the child and how those needs are met;
• Religion and/or cultural considerations;
• The need for continuation of a stable home environment;
• Other children whose custody is relevant to this child’s custody arrangement;
• Support and opportunity for interaction with extended family members, such as grandparents;
• Interaction and interrelationship with other members of household;
• Adjustment to school and community;
• Age and sex of the child;
• Whether there is a pattern of domestic violence in the home;
• Parental use of excessive discipline or emotional abuse; and
• Evidence of parental drug, alcohol or child/sex abuse.

Even though you understand what’s in the best interests of your child, the Court ultimately has the final say, and the best way to express your concerns and work within the constraints of the court system is to work with an attorney. If you haven’t obtained an attorney, you can get started with a free case review.

Jonathan C. Brown, Attorney at Law
101 Main Ave. S., Fayetteville, Tenn.