Legally, the term, "the best interest of the child" has no standard definition. The term refers to the care courts take on when attempting to decide what type of services or orders will best serve a child's needs AND who will be best suited to care for the child.
There are a number of things taken into consideration by the court when deciding the "best interest" of a child. While each state is different most will consider the following factors.
- The emotional ties and relationships between the child and his or her parents, siblings, family and household members, or other caregivers.
- The capacity of the parents to provide a safe home and adequate food, clothing, and medical care.
- The mental and physical health needs of the child.
- The mental and physical health of the parents.
- The presence of domestic violence in the home.
What happens though, when evidence proves that the court failed to meet the besting interest of the child?
According to Linda Gottlieb, the "best interest of the child standard is "a product of the adversarial system because it is predicated upon the belief that a selection must be made between the two parents as to who would be the better residential parent with sole custody, being the primary caretaker and decision maker for the child, while the other parent is accorded only limited visitation rights."
Is it really in the best interest of either the child or parents to designate one parent better equipped or qualified to care for and provide for a child's needs?
If the courts are truly taking into consideration the mental and physical health of each parent, the emotional ties to family and the capacity to provide in most cases, wouldn't that mean that when both parents meet those standards that both parents should have equal or shared parenting time?