Many states have adopted a standard that places primary emphasis on the best interests of the child when custody is disputed. Today, courts exercise their discretion in awarding custody, considering all relevant factors, including marital misconduct, to determine the children’s best interests. The court may consider such matters as the wishes of the child’s parents; the wishes of the child; the relationship between each parent and the child, and any other person who interacts with the child (including stepparents); the child’s adjustment to home, school, community; the mental and physical health of all individuals involved; which parent will foster a positive parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent; who was the primary caretaker; the nature and extent of coercion, if any, by a parent in obtaining an agreement regarding custody; and whether either parent has complied with an order to attend domestic relations education if the state requires it. Domestic violence is considered not to be in the best interest of a child and in many states a parent’s conviction for any domestic violence can weigh heavily against that parent’s bid for custody.
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