The Father Factor

How Your State Determines “What’s in the Best Interests of the Child”

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Dec 1, 2021


Do you know how the courts in your state determine what’s in the best interests of the child when making decisions about placement and custody determinations, safety and permanency planning, and proceedings for termination of parental rights?

If not, then it’s high time to bone up on your knowledge so that you can serve dads even more effectively.

This factsheet from the Child Welfare Information Gateway can help you and the dads you serve to better understand how courts determine what's in the best interest of the child. It summarizes how courts in different states:

  • Define “best interests.”
  • Use guiding principles for determinations of best interests, such as a preference for keeping the family together.
  • Take into account specific factors in state statutes when making determinations, such as the ability of parents to maintain a safe home and the mental and physical health needs of the child. (Not all states have such factors in statutes.)
  • Consider other factors when making determinations, such as placing importance on maintaining bonds between siblings and the child and close relatives.

Then it provides a summary of the laws in each state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories that the courts consider.

I encourage you to download and share the information in it with the dads you serve who are court-involved. (And share it with your co-workers and anyone else you know who serves dads.) What you share could have a big impact on their ability to be as involved as possible in the lives of their children.

Did you know there is no standard definition of “best interests of the child?”

Can you guess how many states have statutes with specific factors for courts to consider when making determinations? Does your state?

Learn more about the Father Engagement Academy by National Fatherhood Initiative

Topics: non-custodial fathers, child welfare, Featured, child best interests, custody, court orders

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