California parents going through divorce know all too well that planning a new routine for children involved is no easy task. For one, there are potential new school zones and living situations. There also comes the challenge of determining the best possible plan for younger family members. The term “best interests of the child” is common, but what, exactly, does it entail?

The Child Welfare Information Gateway points out that, although there is no single definition for the term, the “best interests of the child” refers to the process wherein courts determine what types of actions, services and orders will best serve a child. Courts generally consider a number of factors when making this decision, including the child’s safety and the parent’s circumstances. Specific factors may depend on the state, but the CWIG shares that courts will also commonly consider the relationship (and emotional ties) between child and parent, the child’s mental and physical health needs and the presence of domestic violence in the home. Other important factors may include a child’s close family bonds, such as the relationship with a sibling, and the child’s own wishes.

Sometimes, the official guidelines can appear overwhelming. Verywell Family breaks down general child custody standards in a way families can easily understand, stating that, when it comes to determining parents’ abilities, courts make decisions carefully. A parent’s ability to provide proper food, clothing, medical care and other necessities is a must in these situations. By the same token, a parent must also prove they can be consistent in supplying the child with these basic needs. A child’s age is another important factor in the process, as younger children naturally need closer attention. Above all else, courts usually try to keep a child in a routine setting in which he or she feels comfortable and safe.