The "best interest of the children" is a term that is thrown about with abandon during divorce and post-divorce. The courts, the attorneys, the parents, the guardian ad litems, Children's Protective Services, the psychological evaluator and therapists all use the term "the best interest of the children." They are all wrong, and that term is all wrong.
What does "the best interest of the children" even mean? According to Childwelfare.gov ,
...there is no standard definition of "best interests of the child," the term generally refers to the deliberation that courts undertake when deciding what type of services, actions, and orders will best serve a child as well as who is best suited to take care of a child.
How is "the best interest of the children" figured out? There are many factors that are taken into consideration, but only 16 states and DC actually spell out specifics as to what those factors are. In general they include the familial relationships of the children and everyone else they live with, what type of home the parents can provide, the mental and physical needs of the children, the mental and physical health of the parents and whether there is domestic violence in the home.
Only five states plus D.C. take the children's mental and physical needs into account. This says something very important. Things need to change. Every state should take the children's mental and physical needs into consideration and that should be the number one priority when considering "the best interests of the children".
More importantly, the term itself needs to be changed. If you do some research, and ask around, you will find that the courts rarely adhere to these rules, and chances are those rules don't even apply in your state. To find out which states they do apply to and if yours is one of them, you can do a State Statutes Search and see. After all, it is in your best interest to be informed as to what the statutes are for your state before starting "the best interest of the children" scenario.
The term "the best interests of the children" is broad and overused, and let's face it, are the best interests ever really considered? I think that term needs to be thrown out the window and a new term should be implemented. How about the health and well being of the children? After all, doesn't that really cover what we, as divorced parents, are hoping to accomplish. Making sure are children are in an environment where they can be healthy and their well being is being looked after? And, do the courts really know what is best for our children's health and well being, or do we, as parents know?
Imagine if all parents were really only concerned about the health and well being of their children and not just about what they can get from the other parent or how to get back at the other parent? Wouldn't this be so much better for the kids? Wouldn't it be better for the kids if the courts didn't get to decide the health and well being of the children, and the parents had to put their differences aside to make these decisions?
What would happen if parents were locked in a room together and told they couldn't come out until the decision as to the health and well being of the children were made? Would both parents walk out after hours of being locked in a room together with a plan focused on the health and well being of their children, or would only one parent make it out of that room alive?
This is something we, as divorced parents, will never know. The laws, such as they are, are antiquated and are not only slow to change, but very rarely do change. And, still I contend, that the catch phrase, "the best interest of the children," should be thrown out and the health and well being of the children should be instituted.