In formal child custody disputes, the voices of those at the center of the controversy, the children, are rarely heard.Their parents, who otherwise are presumed to act in their best interests, battle one another in legal proceedings that reward the parent who more persuasively portrays the deficiencies of the other's parenting skills. Because the children, especially the very young, have no adequate basis for making judgments about their long-term well-being, the state acts asparenspatriae while their parents are adversaries.Through its laws and decision makers, the state attempts to ensure that the final custody arrangement is guided by the best interests of the child

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