Card image cap
Card image cap

The Best Interest of the Child Whose Custody is Challenged: Issues, Context and Practices

Élisabeth Godbout, Claudine Parent, Marie-Christine Saint-Jacques

This summary of theoretical, scientific, and professional writings is focused on three questions related to determining the best interests of the child whose custody is disputed following a separation : (1) What are the stakes when it comes down to the best interests of the child ? (2) What are the characteristics of the situations that end up being analyzed or debated in the courtroom ? (3) How is this principle assessed from a practical point of view ; what weight is given to the various criteria examined by the judges and the specialists ? As concerns the professionals whose task it is to come to a decision as to the best interests of the child, the answers to these questions highlight a range of challenges that underlie their being regulated by a flexible yardstick that provides few clear guidelines within a context itself often extremely controversial and complex. An examination of these writings concerning the practices of judges and specialists reveals two conflicting currents of thought : the importance of the referral parent, more especially when the children are very young, and the trend towards co-parenting and an equal sharing of custody between the parents. It is on the basis of these conclusions that suggestions for future research are made.