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How are a child’s best interests defined?

If you’re involved in a child custody dispute in Montana, you’ve likely heard the term “best interests of the child” quite a bit. But how is this consideration actually defined? The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services explains how the court determines best interests when it comes child custody and other matters.

Best Interests Defined

While there is no set definition, best interests typically entail securing for a child the highest quality of care. Accordingly, a court may look at many different factors. Can a parent meet the physical and mental health needs of the child? Does he or she provide a stable home, including a wholesome diet and appropriate medical care? Are there any issues in the home that increase the risk of domestic violence? Getting answers to these questions allows the court to establish in which environment the child will thrive.

Other Factors

Of course, the court will also look at a few other factors. Because close family bonds are so crucial to child development, judges usually look to preserve family relationships when at all possible. The wants of the child at the heart of the custody battle may also come into play. This is usually the case with older children, whose wishes are often given more credibility due to their maturity level. 

Laws Specific to Montana

There are also child custody laws specific to Montana. For instance, the state is reluctant to remove a child from his or her home as a result of an allegation of abuse or neglect (when allegations are made an investigation will follow to determine whether they have any validity). Montana laws also states that the ultimate goal is to preserve family unity when appropriate and that a child’s inalienable rights will be respected in every instance.

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Cunningham Law Office is a family law-focused firm in Missoula, Montana. We serve Missoula, Ravalli County, and the surrounding area.