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How child custody is decided

Many St. Clair Shores, Michigan, children live with both of their biological parents. However, sometimes biological parents separate, and in those cases, they will need to resolve child custody issues. They may be able to do so privately, putting together a parenting plan. If they cannot successfully put together a parenting plan privately, they may need to contest the custody of their children in court.

When that happens, the court decides custody issues based on the best interests of the child standard. That standard is supposed to be an objective way to assess where the children should live, how much time they should spend with each parent, how issues about them should be resolved between the parents and much more.

The best interests of the child standard is relatively new in human history. For centuries, custody of a couple's children went to the father of the children. Some say that this was due to a view of the father as the best teacher of the children -- the parent who was best suited to train the children up in the way they should go, to paraphrase the prevailing standard of previous eras.

Shortly before the American Civil War, however, a new standard that favored the mother in child custody decisions started to be implemented. By World War I, it was the standard for child custody decisions across the country. Fathers objected to this, of course, affirming that they should be viewed as being just as capable in the family sphere as women are in the career sphere.

In an ongoing attempt to address that, the best interests of the child standard took a step toward objectivity in child custody decisions. It articulates a number of points on which custody decisions are supposed to be made, including the relationship between the children and the parents, and the caregiving that the parents did up to the point of their separation. Parents who have child custody issues can go over all the points of the standard with their attorneys when preparing their cases.

Source: Child Custody Project, "“Best Interests of the Child”," Andrew Schepard, accessed July 20, 2017

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