If you have decided to end your marriage, you may already be aware of the potential psychological toll divorce can take on kids. By focusing on the best interests of the young ones in your family, though, you increase your odds of reaching an acceptable outcome with your divorce or custody matter.

In Louisiana, judges consider the best interests of the children when issuing divorce decrees and custody orders. State law lists 14 factors that determine what is in the best interests of children. Generally, these factors fit into the following four categories.

1. The parent-child relationship

The nature of each parent’s parent-child relationship is vital in family law matters. Therefore, you should do what you can to strengthen the bond you have with your kids. Developing emotional connections, demonstrating love and showing affection are all effective strategies.

2. The needs of the children

If you cannot agree about legal or physical custody, a judge is apt to consider the needs of the children. All children have a fundamental need for food, shelter, clothing and medical care. Your sons or daughters may also have unique educational, religious or other requirements. Identifying what your child needs to thrive and working to meet those needs may boost your standing in court.

3. The abilities of each parent

Because all children have a variety of needs, their parents must have the financial, physical and emotional ability to meet those needs. If you are facing a custody battle, you may improve your position by focusing on your capabilities. You may also want to avoid certain behaviors, such as drug or alcohol use, to demonstrate you can meet the needs of your kids.

4. Stability

Children in post-divorce families tend to need as much stability as possible. Accordingly, in your parenting plan, you should take steps to preserve the status quo for your kids. Finding ways to keep them in their existing schools, places of worship or social groups may be critical. Also, you may want to figure out how to maintain your children’s current living arrangements.

If you can provide a stable environment for your kids, you are already likely doing something right. Focusing specifically on the 14 factors can also improve your children’s chances of a quick and healthy recovery from the divorce.