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What is the “best interest of the child” in divorce?

As parents move through divorce, they may question what will be best for their children. It isn’t just the “good parents.” Even abusive parents may care for their children. They may also be more willing to make false allegations about their spouse so they can “get” the children.

Another concern is “shared parenting,” in which both parents remain actively involved in the lives of their children. This form of post-divorce parenting also continues the children’s routines and relationships.

Finally, courts sometimes offer autonomy to older children of divorce. They may be allowed to speak up about how they view their best interests.

Shared parenting may be beneficial for the children

In considering the children’s best interests, parents need to consider a range of areas. These are social, emotional, spiritual, moral and psychological. Children may experience upheaval in their lives as their parents separate and divorce. Should there be anger between the parents, they need to keep their children’s needs in mind. Assuring each child that their parents’ love and nurturing won’t end is important. Parents should try to avoid turning their children into pawns, seeking their loyalty over the other parent.

Shared parenting may help the children maintain a close relationship with both of their parents. This effort means that both parents are making the emotional needs of their children a high priority.

While one parent may move out of the family home, they should both try to minimize disruption to their children.

Offer autonomy to older children only

“Autonomy” in this context means giving older children a say in where they will live after their parents divorce. This should be offered only to older children, who have a better idea of where they want to live. Younger children may not have the level of maturity required for this type of decision.