Child Custody in Divorce – Best Interest of Child

What is one factor that the Courts will look at when deciding custody of a child or children? “Best Interest of the Child”

What does best interest of the child mean? “Controlling factor in custody proceedings is the best interest and welfare of the child.” Tuttle v. Henderson (Utah 1981). “Court must, in a custody dispute, give highest priority to welfare of children over desires of either parent.” Kallas v. Kallas (Utah 1980). “In proceedings to determine custody and/or visitation, welfare of a minor child is of paramount importance, and divorce courts have broad equitable powers in safeguarding this interest.” Gribble v. Gribble (Utah 1978).

Because a custody determination may frequently involve a choice between good and better, Shioji, 712 P.2d at 201-02, trial courts should consider various relevant factors in determining which custodial arrangement is in the child’s best interest. Even though no one set of factors governs a custody determination in every case, “the trial court’s findings should articulate those factors pertinent to the child’s best interests which the court considered in making its determination, such as the needs of the child, the ability of each parent to meet those needs,” Painter, 752 P.2d at 909; see also Smith, 726 P.2d at 425-26, “the parenting ability of the custodial parent and the functioning of the established custodial relationship.” Chandler v. Matthews, 734 P.2d 907, 908 (Utah 1987). Other function-related factors which are relevant in choosing between custodial situations include the identity of the primary caretaker during the marriage, the identity of the parent with greater flexibility to provide personal care for the child, the stability of the environment provided by each parent, and the identity of the parent with whom the child has spent most of his or her time pending custody determination. Pusey v. Pusey, 728 P.2d 117, 120 (Utah 1986); see also Hogge, 649 P.2d at 55. However, the trial court should be careful not to reward the primary caregiver, if he or she gained that status wrongfully, by giving the wrongdoer a consequential advantage in evaluating the custody question. Davis v. Davis, 749 P.2d 647, 648-49 (Utah 1988). Myers v. Myers, 768 P.2d 979, 983 (Utah Ct. App. 1989)

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