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Does the best interests standard affect your right to custody?

by | May 4, 2021 | Family Law

One of the first things a parent considering divorce has to worry about is whether the change in their marital status will have an impact on the relationship with their children. It is common for parents to worry that divorce might negatively affect the relationship or access to the kids.

For example, you may worry that your ex might will move to the mainland, meaning that you are hundreds of dollars and hours on an airplane away from your kids. You could also feel concerned about the persistent myth that the courts favor one sex over the other in custody proceedings.

Thankfully, the laws in Hawaii that regulate custody are sex neutral. They do not give one parent more rights or consideration than the other. Instead, the focus will be on the best interests of the children. What does that mean for you as a parent who wants custody?

The best interests standard focuses on the needs of the children

Rather than making a custody decision based on the rights or wishes of the parents, the judge overseeing your divorce will try to keep things focused on what will be best for your kids.

Children dealing with parental divorce need support and stability. Judges will typically try to keep both of the parents involved and preserve the child’s broader support network, if possible. However, sometimes the best interests standard does mean that one parent has substantially less parenting time with the children.

If either parent can show a history of neglect, abuse or addiction, that could influence how the judges decide to split parenting time. In most other cases, the best interests standard will lead to a judge doing their best to protect both parental relationships. That might even mean limiting parental relocations that will separate the children from the other parent.

The best interests standard should influence your court strategy

Once you understand that it is not your right but the needs of the children that will affect how the courts handle your case, you can let that knowledge affect how you behave in court and what you push for.

Understanding that sole custody is rare and only an option in unusual circumstances can help you focus on realistic goals, like favorable terms in a shared custody agreement. Showing the courts that you are willing to cooperate and prioritize your children in this difficult process will help them see what a good parent you are and could help you secure the outcome that you want.