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Determining the best interests of a child in court

Pennsylvania residents may not be aware of the Child Welfare Information Gateway, a governmental resource dealing with child welfare. The agency offers several suggestions for measures by which the best interests of a child may be determined when there is a divorce or a child removal order by Child Protective Services.

The idea of a child's best interests comes into play and is critical in such legal situations. Courts often make binding decisions on issues like child placement, custody arrangements and the termination of parental rights based on the best interests of the child. Yet, the notion of 'best interests of the child" is typically not well defined by statutes. Generally, courts will deliberate factors related to the parent's competency as well as the child's specific situation in order to assess how to best provide for the child's basic needs, including security, nourishment and shelter.

While laws concerning the well-being of a child differ among states, the Child Welfare Information Gateway offers several universal standards for establishing the best interests of a child. These include but are not limited to the strength of the emotional bond between the child and the child's parents, the parent's capacity for providing food, clothing and medical care, any physical or mental health needs possessed by the child and the presence of domestic violence within the home.

Since laws around the country differ in determining the best interests of a child, these standards may be useful. However, they can be difficult to fully comprehend, just as many issues pertaining to family law can be exasperating to navigate. Parents dealing with issues like visitation arrangements, child custody or a CPS removal order may help ensure that their parental rights remain inviolate and championed by retaining the counsel of a family law attorney.

Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway, "Determining the Best Interests of the Child", December 10, 2014

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