Optimally, in any divorce, paternity, or other matter relating to a minor child, the parents of the child or children are able to work together to determine a custodial schedule that will best serve the child’s needs. In many cases, however, parents are unable to come to an agreement on their own and the decision is left to the court system.

Various court systems across various states have different considerations in terms of establishing what is in the best interests of the child. There’s no absolute definition of the “best interests”, so to speak, because different factors may be more or less important in different cases, and family law differs from state to state; some items that are higher up on the agenda for one state may be lower for another. A child’s best interests as determined by the courts may depend largely on where they live, although there are some agreed-upon factors that appear to be present across all states.

Here, we’ll discuss the determination of the best interests of the child by the courts, what that may mean for parents and families, and how parents can present evidence demonstrating that they are the best custodial parent for the child.


What is the Example of the Best Interests of the Child?

The best interests of the child:

“generally refers to the deliberation that courts undertake when deciding what type of services, actions, and orders will best serve a child as well as who is best suited to take care of a child.”

Determinations are usually made by considering a number of factors related to the child’s and parents’ circumstances, with the child’s safety and well-being as the court’s paramount concern. Other major concerns revolve around the child’s happiness, security, mental health, education, and emotional development.


What Does “The Best Interests of the Child” Mean?

The best interests of the child principle involves weighing a number of factors that the court finds important to make a number of decisions favoring the child’s happiness, security, mental health, and emotional development. The child having a close and loving relationship with each parent, when possible, is an important consideration. The establishment of the joint or primary custodial roles is another, in addition to the  maintenance of sibling and other close family bonds. 


What is the Best Interest of the Child Principle?

Due to the importance of weighing different factors in different states and even different custodial cases, the principle is a set of important factors regarding child welfare. Some are federal, and some are on a state-by-state basis. These are utilized in making a decision about the child’s care that will mostly strongly attend to their needs and welfare.


What Factors Determine the Child’s Best Interests?

A number of factors determine the child’s best interests. Some of the most common include:

  • The child’s wishes (whether a state considers the child’s wishes and at what age varies by state)
  • The mental and physical health of the parents
  • Any special needs a child may have and how each parent takes care of those needs
  • Religious or cultural considerations
  • The need for continuing a stable home environment
  • Other children whose custody is relevant to this child’s custody arrangement
  • The child’s opportunity to interact with their extended family, such as grandparents
  • Interactions and interrelationships with other members of the household
  • Adjustments to school and community
  • The age and sex of the child
  • Whether there is a pattern of domestic violence in the home
  • Parental use of excessive discipline or emotional abuse
  • Evidence of parental drug, alcohol, or child/sex abuse


What Factors Determine the Child’s Best Interests in Nevada?

In Nevada, this is the list typically used by the courts; it is explicitly “non-exclusive” so anything else that is relevant in a particular case can also be a basis for decision:

  • The wishes of the child if the child is of sufficient age and capacity to form an intelligent preference as to his or her physical custody.
  • Any nomination of a guardian for the child by a parent.
  • Which parent is more likely to allow the child to have frequent associations and a continuing relationship with the noncustodial parent.
  • The level of conflict between the parents.
  • The ability of the parents to cooperate to meet the needs of the child.
  • The mental and physical health of the parents.
  • The physical, developmental and emotional needs of the child.
  • The nature of the relationship of the child with each parent.
  • The ability of the child to maintain a relationship with any sibling.
  • Any history of parental abuse or neglect of the child or a sibling of the child.
  • Whether either parent or any other person seeking physical custody has engaged in an act of domestic violence against the child, a parent of the child or any other person residing with the child.
  • Whether either parent or any other person seeking physical custody has committed any act of abduction against the child or any other child.


How Courts Use the Factors

It’s important to note that the courts don’t look at just one factor when making a best-interests decision but rather, all of them, as well as the parent or caregiver’s capacity to parent.  Different factors are more important than others in different cases.


What to Show the Court

Parents and caregivers can monitor the time they spend with the child, whether to show that they spend the most time or that their former spouse has been keeping their child from them. You might also create a parenting plan showing how your home or parenting style or time best benefits the child. Additionally, you may bring evidence of time spent with siblings or friends at your home to show your child’s comfort level and ease. 


How to Prove the Best Interest of the Child

Proving the best interests of your child is tricky at best. Consulting with a family law specialist to formulate your strategy will be best. Not only do these attorneys have considerable experience in this field, they may be able to point out items that are missing or undervalued and make sure they are displayed or presented appropriately.


When Is Relocating Considered Best?

Courts generally dislike removing children from their family home, possibly away from other family and friends and your former spouse. That may be a decision best made when the child is older and their opinion counts for more. 

On the other hand, if it puts them in a better school system, gives greater access to child care, or allows them to rely more heavily on a support system, the courts may see relocation as favorable. Again, a great question for your attorney.

The Nevada law governing relocation can be quite complicated.  At its simplest, you need consent from the other parent or a court order permitting relocation.  If contested, there are threshold questions and then a list of factors for a court to go over; a discussion with links to materials is posted at https://www.willicklawgroup.com/child-custody-and-visitation/. 


Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

There are very few non-attorneys who can master the statutory and case law required to present a persuasive case for custody or relocation in a contested matter.  Something as important as your child’s custody almost always requires advice and assistance of a trained professional. The Willick Law Group is here to help with your Nevada custodial agreements, or litigation.

Marshal S. Willick