What Does “In the Child’s Best Interests” Really Mean?

What Does In the Child’s Best Interests Really Mean?

Children are among the most vulnerable members of society. Dependent on the care of the adults around them, they are unable to make most decisions for themselves. If their parents separate or divorce, young children may not even have a say in which parent raises them. For this reason, Alberta’s Family Law Act stipulates that decisions involving a child must be made in the child’s “best interests.”

What does a child’s “best interests” mean, and how is this determined? When it comes to making decisions as to parenting time or who holds decision-making responsibility, a judge is required to consider a range of factors impacting a child’s physical, psychological, and emotional well-being. This information then influences how a court may rule in a dispute over how a child will be raised.

If you have questions regarding your child’s best interests and what to consider when making a parenting plan following a separation or divorce, contact us today. Our Edmonton family lawyers would be happy to address your questions and discuss the particulars of your case.

Parenting Plan Disagreements

In Alberta, decisions concerning a child are required to be made in the child’s “best interests.” This means that the choices made regarding parenting time and decision-making responsibility are to be guided only by what will provide the child with the best possible safety. 

Parenting time, formerly known as access, refers to the time the child will spend with each parent. Decision-making responsibility, formerly known as custody, refers to a parent’s rights to make important decisions on behalf of their child. These are typically life-forming choices such as where they go to school and what medical care they receive.

Under ideal circumstances, the parents agree to collaborate in prioritizing their child’s well-being, putting their interpersonal conflict aside when it comes to child-rearing choices. Unfortunately, not all parents are able to navigate a separation or divorce with such grace.

In instances where the parents cannot agree on how - and with whom - their child will be raised, a judge may need to step in and make a ruling in an effort to protect the child’s best interests.

What Are the Child’s Best Interests?

There is no single set rule for a judge to follow in determining which decision will be best for a given child. Each family, and each case, is unique. However, factors a judge typically consider include:

  • The child’s current circumstances, including age, health status, and any specific needs.
  • The child’s history of care - who has been responsible for their care up until now?
  • The child’s cultural, spiritual, linguistic upbringing and heritage.
  • Where appropriate (eg. due to age and maturity), the child’s own preferences as to their future.
  • Plans currently being proposed (i.e. by parents) for the child’s future.
  • Whether there has been any form of domestic abuse in the child’s life.
  • The specific nature and stability of the child’s relationship with each parent, as well as other significant parties that would be involved in their life.
  • Each parent’s ability and willingness to appropriately care for the child.
  • Whether there have been any relevant civil or criminal proceedings that may influence the child’s safety and well-being.

Contact Our Edmonton Family Lawyers Today for a Consultation

Decisions made in relation to the lives of children in Alberta are guided by the principle of being “in the child’s best interests.” What the child’s best interests are may vary depending on the specific circumstances of their life. If you would like to address questions particular to your unique situation, contact us today to schedule a consultation with our Edmonton family lawyers.

** Please note, this article is intended as a general overview on the subject of family law, and is not intended to be legal advice. If you are seeking legal advice, please consult with an Alberta family lawyer.

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