The Best Interest Standard

When determining custody and visitation, the court will determine what is in the “best interest” of the child or children. It has been said that the best interest standard is “more than a statement of the primary criterion for decision … it is an expression of the court’s special responsibility to safeguard the interests of a child at the center of a custody dispute.” See Kinsella v. Kinsella, 150 N.J. 276, 317 (1997).

This would seem obvious at first glance, but in a lot of cases parents put their own interest ahead of the children. The most egregious violation of this is disparaging, or talking bad, about the other parent to or in front of the children. This often places the children in the middle and forces them to choose sides, which is clearly not good for the children. It can also be harmful to the other parent-child relationship if the children are now viewing them in a negative light. Another example is involving the children in the litigation. Sometimes parents provide their children with too much information about the case. Ideally, if the children need to know an aspect of the divorce, the conversation should involve both parents and the children at the same time. Beyond that, it is generally not appropriate to involve the children in the litigation.

Divorces and custody battles are tough, life changing and stressful. Always remember, your children did not choose to be involved in the divorce or custody battle and should be shielded from the acrimony at all costs. It will make their lives a lot easier and, in turn, yours as well.