Where the children are involved in a family law matter, a single determinant — a mantra, if you will — centrally emerges to guide attorneys’ actions, counselors’ recommendations and court decisions, namely this: What is in the kids’ best interests?

That “best interest” standard has been a cornerstone of family law in Arkansas and nationally and has been for decades. It is certainly not hard to see why a child’s perspective looms large where the family is concerned. Children are loved and valued by their parents, and emotions can take center stage in divorce-related considerations such as child custody and visitation, parenting plans, support and related matters. Kids are sometimes caught in between and victimized by volatile circumstances that they are powerless to change.

And thus, the barometer in play is not what best suits mom, dad or other relatives. Rather, and necessarily, it must gauge what is best for the children.

It is easy to see why holidays are often discussed in tandem with the best interests of youngsters and older children. For families marked by separation, the holiday season can be both a mixture of excitement and some angst, given the sudden retreat from the routine that most kids thrive on.

It is at such times — Christmas, for example — that family stress can become acute, especially if divorced parents become rigid and combative over where the kids should be and when.

As noted by one commentator in a recent media article, being a charitable, flexible and accommodative parent during the holidays can be the best present of all for children.

Source: The Mercury, “Child custody and the holidays: do’s and don’ts,” Andrew D. Taylor, Nov. 27, 2013