Readers of this blog who have kids or who spend time around children may have noticed that despite being similar in age, two children may be very different people. Consider two 5-year-olds and how their personalities and characteristics may diverge. One may be outgoing and loud while the other may be reserved and quiet. One may have strong academic skills and the other may struggle to complete basic tasks. One may have significantly stronger control over their emotions than the other, who may succumb to difficult situations and regress to tears. There are an infinite number of ways that children can differ from each other and those differences make every child unique.

Because kids develop and learn at different speeds and in different environments, the courts recognize that children have different needs as they grow. This means that while one child custody plan may work for one family, it may be a very difficult plan for another. To ensure that a child’s unique needs are addressed when handling matters related to their physical and legal custody, courts attempt to use the best interests of the child as their guiding principal.

Consideration of a child’s best interest can and should include any limitations that they possess either intellectually, physically or emotionally. It should take into account basic information about the child as well, such as their age and if they are dependent on one parent for nutrition, such as in the case of a breastfeeding infant. It must take into account the presence of abuse or neglect in the parents’ households as well as the child’s preferences for custody, if the child is old enough to form their own opinions on such matters.

There are many other considerations that must be addressed in the creation of a child custody plan based on a child’s best interests. Parents are well-suited to know what their children want and need and, as such, can be powerful advocates for their kids when it comes to negotiating child custody plans and schedules.