Determining the Best Interests of the Child - Montana

Date: September 2023

Guiding Principles

Citation: Ann. Code § 41-3-101

It is the policy of the State of Montana to do the following:

  • Provide for the protection of children whose health and welfare are or may be adversely affected and further threatened by the conduct of those responsible for their care and protection
  • Achieve these purposes in a family environment and preserve the unity and welfare of the family, whenever possible
  • Support the efforts of parents whose children have been removed to reunify the family, including by taking into account whether those efforts may be impeded by court-ordered support payments
  • Ensure that there is no forced removal of a child from the family based solely on an allegation of abuse or neglect unless the department has reasonable cause to suspect that the child is at imminent risk of harm

It is intended that the mandatory reporting of child abuse or endangerment will cause the protective services of the State to seek to prevent further abuses, protect and enhance the welfare of these children, and preserve family life, whenever appropriate.

Whenever it is necessary to remove a child from the child's home, the Department of Public Health and Human Services shall, when it is in the best interests of the child, place the child with the child's noncustodial birth parent or with the child's extended family, including adult siblings, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, and uncles, when placement with the extended family is approved by the department, prior to placing the child in an alternative protective or residential facility. Prior to approving a placement, the department shall investigate whether anyone living in the home has been convicted of a crime involving serious harm to children.

In implementing this policy, the child's health and safety are of paramount concern.

Best Interests Factors

Citation: Ann. Code § 41-3-102

"Best interests of the child" means the physical, mental, and psychological conditions and needs of the child and any other factor considered by the court to be relevant to the child.

Other Considerations

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 41-3-101; 41-3-109

It is the policy of the State of Montana to do the following:

  • Recognize that a child is entitled to assert the child's constitutional rights
  • Ensure that all children have a right to a healthy and safe childhood in a permanent placement
  • Ensure that whenever removal of a child from the home is necessary, the child is entitled to maintain their ethnic, cultural, and religious heritage, whenever appropriate

If a proceeding under this chapter involves an Indian child, the proceeding is subject to the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act and applicable State law.