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Court talk: What are your child's best interests?

When you get a divorce, your only thought is doing what's best for your child. For most parents, determining visitation and custody is a must-do right off the bat.

Before you can, you have to decide what's in the best interests of your child. Which situation will result in the best care and upbringing?

What are the best interests of your child?

What the courts mean by doing something in the best interests of your child is not that you do what your child wants. Your child's best interests might be completely opposite from what they want. As a parent, it's your job to make decisions that will better your child's life, encourage good health and build solid relationships.

Here's an example. If your child wants to live with his or her dad but that won't be possible due to your ex-spouse's work schedule, it wouldn't be in your child's best interests to live there. Why? Your child would just end up being alone or being babysat. That's not beneficial if you're able to care for him instead. It's costly and would mean you'd have less parenting time that you could otherwise have.

Does your child get any say in custody?

To a degree, yes. If your child is older, perhaps 13 or 14, then they have a right to voice what they would like to see happen to the court. However, neither you nor the judge have to agree or do what your child suggests. Children need guidance, and if there is a reason why a certain arrangement won't work, it's a good idea to discuss the problem with your child directly.

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