The"best interests of the child" is a legal principle that comes up in child custody cases, and it is the main factor that North Carolina judges consider when making child custody determinations. Courts look at a number of factors to determine best interests, though there is no specific list that they must consider. Judges compare the character and lifestyle of each parent or potential custodian in a custody and examine how the child is doing before making a final custody determination.
Judges will examine the entire history of a family if the case is in court for the first time, and if it has already been litigated previously, a judge will consider any recent changes since the last court order was issued. Factors that affect the decision include the child's health and safety, what type of education plan the parent has for a child, if there has been evidence of abuse, the child's relationship with siblings or other relatives in the home and many others. Some states prohibit judges from considering certain factors such as the sex of a parent or income.
In North Carolina, a child's health and safety are primary concerns when a judge is examining whether or not a parent has made "reasonable efforts" to gain custody of their child after the child has been removed by a state agency due to evidence of abuse or neglect in the home. If it is not in the child's best interest to return home, then that child may be placed in a permanent home that is safe for the child.
Before that occurs, parents who have lost custody of their children must be given a fair chance to correct any of the deficiencies that caused the state to become involved. Family law attorneys can be of assistance in this regard.