Determining Child Custody in Florida

States vary on their methods of determining the issue of child custody. In Florida, the courts focus on the best interests of the child when making their decision. This requires an evaluation of all factors that affect the child’s welfare and interests. If you are considering a divorce or otherwise having to make custody decisions, a family law attorney can help you evaluate your options and come to a solution that will be best for your family.

Important Factors

In determining the best interests of a child, Florida courts examine several areas of the child’s and parents’ lives:

  • The child’s health and safety
  • The child’s developmental needs
  • Parental communication
  • The parents’ parenting plan
Health and Safety

When considering the best interests of the child, the court will pay a significant amount of attention to the health and safety of the child’s environment. To make a decision as to which environments will best promote the child’s health and safety, courts consider several factors, including:

  • Whether there is evidence of domestic or sexual violence, or child abuse,  abandonment, or neglect, regardless of whether an action was brought
  • The mental and physical health of both parents
  • Any substance abuse in the child’s environment
Communication and Ability to Co-Parent

As it is generally best for a child to have both parents involved in his or her life, courts also look to the parents’ ability to communicate with each other and the court about the child’s welfare. Courts analyze:

  • Whether the parents will honor a time sharing schedule
  • Parental ability to act reasonably when changes to the custody agreement are required
  • The willingness of each parent to keep the other parent informed about the child’s issues and activities
  • Evidence that either parent has provided false information to the court regarding any domestic or sexual violence, or child abuse
Developmental and Emotional Needs

The judge will also assess each parent’s ability to meet the child’s developmental and emotional needs by reviewing a variety of factors, including:

  • The ability of each parent to determine the specific needs of the child
  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable environment
  • The child’s school record
  • The capability and willingness of each parent to remain informed about the child’s friends, teachers, hobbies, and daily activities
  • The ability and desire of each parent to provide a consistent routine
  • The demonstrated ability and desire of each parent to be involved in the child’s schooling and any extracurricular activities
  • The willingness of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation, including not discussing the case with the child or making negative comments about the other parent
  • The developmental stages and needs of the child and the ability of the parents to meet those needs
Parenting Plans

Florida law requires that parents seeking joint custody will prepare a parenting plan. Before the court will approve the plan, the following details must be included:

  • A time-sharing schedule
  • School registration and a designation of which parent will be primarily responsible for health-care and education related issues
  • A list of specific methods that both parents will use to communicate with the child
  • An agreement about sharing daily parenting tasks

Divorce is an extremely stressful time in anyone’s life, and that stress is only compounded by custody issues. A child’s best interest is always foremost in any parent’s mind, but an attorney’s advice can help you make decisions that are best for your child. If you are considering a divorce, please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a free consultation.