Interpretation of the Principle of “Best Interests of the Child” in the Context of Inter-Parental Child Custody Disputes: Case of Estonia
Dr. Karmen Toros, Kati Valma, Dr. Anne Tiko

This paper presents the findings of a qualitative small-scale study, documenting and providing an overview of the interpretations of the concept of “best interests of the child” in child custody proceedings by child protection workers and attorneys, including child inclusion in the court practice. The study is based on court records (n = 19, in total 21 children aged 1-10 years) for determining parental rights concerning the child custody disputes in one court house. Results indicate that the best interest of the child is associated more often with child’s physical rather than emotional well-being. Participation of the child into judicial proceedings is little practiced. Furthermore, the best interest of the child is equated to parenting plans, not listening to the child’s voice as part of an individualized determination.

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