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What Does the Court Consider “In the Child’s Best Interests”

father and son reading a storybook

When parents get divorced, one of the most important decisions they have to make is what custody arrangement is in their child's best interests. This can be a difficult question to answer, as there are many factors that the court considers when making this determination. At The Law Offices of Mark S. Knutson, S.C., we understand how important it is to understand how the courts will award custody of your child and share information parents should know about the guideline of "the child's best interests."

Awarding Child Custody

When the court awards child custody, they take a holistic view of the child’s situation and their parents’ circumstances. This is done so the child is placed in the best possible environment for them to grow and thrive and emphasizes the value of putting the child’s needs first, before their parents. While the parents’ ability to care for their child is factored into awarding custody, the court bases their decision on what would be best for the child, as it fosters an environment for the child to grow and develop with their specific needs met. For the courts to determine what would be best for the child, they use the guideline of “the child’s best interests.”

What Does “The Child’s Best Interests” Mean?

While every child has unique needs, “the child’s best interests” is a flexible guideline that the court uses so that the custody awarded can help the child thrive as they grow up.

When considering what would be best for the child, the court often looks at:

  • The home environment of each parent,
  • The child’s relationship with each parent,
  • Each parent’s ability to physically, financially, and emotionally care for the child,
  • Any physical or mental health concerns either parent or the child may have,
  • Any substance abuse, neglect, or domestic violence issues for either parent,
  • Any medical needs the child has and each parent’s ability to meet those needs,
  • The child’s educational needs, and
  • Any other issues the court deems important when placing custody.

In Wisconsin, there is no “preferred parent;” instead, custody is not to be awarded or denied based on sex, gender, race, sexual orientation, or any other discriminatory information. This means that both parents begin their custody case on a level playing field and have equal rights to custody of their children.

Is Joint Custody in the Child’s Best Interests?

It depends on the situation, but Wisconsin law states that joint custody is typically what is deemed in the child’s best interests. The court seeks to preserve parental relationships with the children, so unless continued custody would be harmful to the child or not in the child’s best interests, the court will most likely award joint custody.

What If I Wish to Pursue Sole Custody?

Since sole custody may damage the relationship between the child and the parent who does not have custody of the child, sole custody has to be justified as in the child’s best interests.

For a parent to pursue sole custody, one of two things must occur:

  • Both parents must agree on the same parent having sole custody of the child, or
  • The court deems sole custody in the best interests of the child.

If you are seeking sole custody of your children, you should consider if sole custody would be in their best interests. An experienced family law attorney can review your family’s situation and help you determine if sole custody would benefit your children.

Helping You at the Important Times in Your Life

Our family law attorneys understand how important it is to do your best for your children. We can help you create a custody agreement to help your child thrive and flourish as they grow up and meet their needs. With over 35 years of experience helping families find solutions to their legal challenges, our family law attorney can help you find the best possible solution for your child’s custody agreement.

Are you seeking custody of your child and unsure of what would be in their best interests? Schedule a consultation with our family law attorney today to learn more about how we can help your family. Call us at (262) 205-0705 to get started!