The Courts have held that the “essential consideration in making an award of custody is the best interest of the child, under the totality of the circumstances.” Eschbach v. Eschbach, 56 NY2d 167, Friederwitzer v. Friederwitzer, 55 NY2d 89. But what does “best interest” really mean?
The Courts have set forth factors that it will consider when making such a determination, including, stability of the parents, each parent’s home environment, each parent’s history of interactions with other parent and child, each parent’s “fitness,” child’s preference and existence of siblings.
Stability can mean economic stability, or a parent’s history of residences. Home environment can include the number of bedrooms, existence of a yard, or other family members in the household, such as a step parent, or significant other. A parent’s history of interactions can mean whether the parents have been able to communicate effectively on the child’s behalf in the past, or which parent takes care of schooling or health issues.
“Fitness” has become a more important factor over the last several years. It has been defined as each parent’s “ability to guide the child, provide for his/her overall well being, and foster that child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent.” See Supangkat v. Tores, 101 AD3d at 890, Craig v. Williams-Craig, 61 AD3d 712, Matter of Berrouet v. Greaves, 35 AD3d 460, Ivory B. V. Shameccka D.B. 2014 NY Slip Op 06578.
While none of the above factors are determinative, the Court must weigh the evidence before it when making a determination about custody in order to determine what is in the best interest of the child.