Lethbridge General Practice Blog

What exactly are the ‘best interests of a child’?

On Behalf of | Dec 27, 2023 | Family Law |

Children can experience a great deal of stress, anxiety and other challenges during times of big changes and adjustments. And few things are more disruptive than parental separation or divorce. Thus, courts and families typically focus on mitigating the adverse impact of these events by putting agreements in place that protect a child’s best interests.

But what, exactly, does this mean in the eyes of the law?

Prioritizing a child’s welfare

When it comes to parental responsibilities, financial support and living arrangements, orders that best serve a child are the priority. Oftentimes, this means:

  • A child is safe: A child should not be in situations where they are at risk of physical or mental abuse. They should have a place to feel comfortable at home. Further, they should feel safe talking about their feelings or concerns with trusted adults.
  • A child has support: Support is crucial for young people, especially during times of difficult transitions. Generally, it is in a child’s best interests to have people who show support for their happiness, emotional health, academic pursuits and other interests.
  • A child’s voice is heard: Communication is vital when it comes to helping kids navigate challenging times. Thus, children can benefit significantly from arrangements where they feel respected, listened to and valued.
  • Parents are meeting the child’s needs: Parents must be willing and able to put their child’s needs first. They must provide academic support, medical care, and cultural or spiritual education as necessary to improve a child’s development.
  • A child has a community: Protecting a child’s relationships in and outside of the family is vital. This can mean favouring arrangements that keep children close to extended family, school friends and trusted adults like coaches and teachers.

Parents must show that they have or will put these elements first when it comes to raising a child after divorce. Further, courts must ensure they put in place arrangements that will make these goals as easy to reach as possible.

When parents disagree

Parties do not always agree on the specifics of what is in a child’s best interests. Parents can disagree with each other or the courts, which can create stressful conflicts. Under these circumstances, legal guidance and counsel can be vital in keeping parties focused on finding fair resolutions.

When you need legal help, we are here for you.