What Does “Best Interests of the Child” Standard Mean and How to Uphold It

September 26, 2019
Father with Children Having Fun at Home

A study conducted by the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions says that 48.3 percent of people who experience Alcohol Use Disorder reported that they had gone through a divorce in their lifetime. That’s almost half of all people surveyed.

When a child is involved in the marriage, a custody case is likely to follow. In most family law custody cases, the phrase “best interests of the child” comes up again and again. Navigating the bests interests of the child is a critical factor in supporting the entire family and preventing any harm from coming to the child.

What Are the “Best Interests of the Child?”

There is no standard definition for the best interests of the child. Instead, the best interests are determined more on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the unique situation of the child.

The standard also varies from state to state, but mainly all follow the same overarching themes. They look for timely decisions that avoid removing the child from their home but keep the health, protection, and safety of the child as an utmost priority.

Some common best interest factors include:

  • The parent’s physical and mental health
  • The child’s physical and mental health
  • The parent’s ability to provide the child with a safe place to stay, suitable clothing, medical care, and sufficient food
  • Whether domestic violence is present within the home
  • The attachment of the child to his caretakers, whether it be the parents, siblings, other family members, or some other caregiver
  • The child’s age, and what they wish if they’re old enough to express themselves
  • Maintaining consistency in the child’s life to avoid disruption of a routine, if possible

With these common best interest factors in mind, it’s important to note that the most preferred option is not to remove the child from the home when possible. However, it might be decided that the child does need to be removed from one or both of the separated parent’s homes. During this period, visitation to parents, siblings, and other relatives is still encouraged to maintain a bond.

Even if a parent or caregiver believes that they are fit to raise and support their child, the decision ultimately rides on what the court rules. In most cases, individuals struggling with Alcohol Use Disorder will only receive partial custody of the child. If individuals with Alcohol Use Disorder can prove they’re taking steps to demonstrate and document their sobriety, custody levels are likely to increase.

How Can a Child’s Best Interests be Upheld?

Every family situation is unique, so upholding children’s best interests comes on a case by case basis. Still, the same general principles apply to most cases. Randi L. Karmel of Randi L. Karmel Matrimonial, Divorce, Family Law & Litigation speaks to this point. She shares ways that she has seen firsthand how to uphold the best interests of the child.

Karmel says that some of these ways include “not putting the kids in the middle of any kind of conflict. Always showing a united front. Never talking badly about the other parent to the child, keeping the child very much in the dark about any parental conflicts … and fostering a relationship with the other parent.” As long as the other parent is trustworthy, providing the child the opportunity to spend time with them can help make the child feel more comfortable and safe.

The more the parents are actively present for their child, the easier the process of a custody case can be. There are several different methods to help uphold the child’s best interests, including:

Avoiding Conflict

An essential way to uphold the interests of the child is to put them outside of all the conflict the family might be having. Like Karmel recommends, it’s best to limit the child’s exposure to negative situations, which can result in emotional trauma.

Providing Proof of Care

Legal guardians can signal how they are caring for the child by showing proof of school enrollment, extracurricular activities, and involvement in the child’s life. Fostering a loving relationship is the most important thing that parents or guardians can do. Depending on their age, a child might be able to testify to the bond between them and their parents.

Conducting Evaluations

It’s common for courts to order an evaluation of the guardians involved in a case. A parent can request one of these evaluations if they suspect that the other parent or guardian is dealing with an issue such as Alcohol Use Disorder. A social worker or a therapist will interview the persons involved, and then make a recommendation on whom they think should receive custody.

Utilizing Alcohol Monitoring

Using a remote alcohol monitoring device like Soberlink helps those dealing with Alcohol Use Disorder to document their sobriety during a custody and alcohol battle. It delivers accountability to family members, the court, children, and anyone else involved in the case. Though sponsors are very helpful, using a device such as Soberlink instead of having the sponsor present can help make the visit with a child more comfortable, as the child has a source of familiarity.

Karmel speaks very highly of the progress she has seen from clients using Soberlink. Not only does it make the situation for children safer, “it also leads to a much more natural kind of access time without a supervisor being present. A child doesn’t know that his or her parent is blowing into a machine. A child doesn’t know that when that parent steps out to take that test what’s happening” says Karmel. Using Soberlink “keeps the child free from feeling that mommy or daddy has a problem, because when you see a supervisor you know that there’s a problem.”

Whether you’re a parent facing Alcohol Use Disorder or a concerned family member, remote alcohol monitoring provides the tools needed to ensure an individual is fit to parent. Do you want to put the power back into your own hands? With Soberlink, you’re getting one step closer to strengthening your relationship with your child. Demonstrate that you’re serious about your commitment to sobriety with Soberlink.

About the Author

Soberlink supports accountability for sobriety through a comprehensive alcohol monitoring system. Combining a breathalyzer with wireless connectivity, the portable design and technology includes facial recognition, tamper detection and real-time reporting. Soberlink proves sobriety with reliability to foster trust and peace of mind.

Learn More About Soberlink

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