The Ethics of Judicial Decision-Making Regarding Custody of Minor Children: Looking at the Best Interests of the Child" and the "Primary Caretaker" Standards as Utility Rules


Kathryn Mercer


This article will examine how a judge's ethical framework can influence the outcome of a custody award, even where the same "child-centered" standard is ostensibly being used. This article uses three cases from the Supreme Court of Nebraska to demonstrate that the "best interests of the child" standard can be used: 1) to award a parent custody because parents have near absolute rights (an example of rule deontology); 2) to deny a parent custody because the par ent is unfit (an example of rule utilitarianism); or 3) to deny a parent custody because the child's life needs stability (an example of act utilitarianism).


Best Interests of the Child

Publication Date


Document Type


Place of Original Publication

Idaho Law Review

Publication Information

33 Idaho Law Review 389 (1997)

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COinS Kathryn Mercer Faculty Bio