Although there is no standard definition of the best interests of the child, there are certain factors that a court will look at. Generally, if possible, the court will not want to remove a child from his or her parents. The court will also make a ruling that ensures the safety of the child while putting the him or her into a permanent home setting as soon as possible.
If a child does have to be taken out of his or her home, the court will ensure that the child still receives sufficient services. The ultimate goal is to ensure that a child becomes a self-sufficient young adult under the guidance of whoever raises him or her. When deciding where a child should live, a judge will look at the relationships between the child and others also living in that home.
In some states, there are specific factors that a judge cannot use when determining what may be in the best interests of the child. For example, Connecticut judges are not allowed to use the socioeconomic status of a parent to keep that parent away from his or her child. Most other states provide sufficient leeway for courts to determine whether the best interests of a child are impeded by being placed in an economically depressed household.
A parent who wishes to have visitation with or custody rights to a child may petition the court for such rights. There is generally no assumption that one sex is better suited to be a parent than another. Therefore, fathers may be able to win full custody rights if that is in the best interests of the child. A family law attorney may be able to assist in establishing that a father can best provide for his child.
Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway, "Determining the Best Interests of the Child", December 08, 2014