For most divorcing couples, the child custody determination is the most important decision to be made. If a couple cannot agree on a custody arrangement and the court is forced to get involved, the primary concern will be the best interests of the child.
Determining the best interests of the child can be a difficult task. The court must consider a variety of different factors, many of which are set forth in state statutes. Under Florida law, some of the factors to be considered are:
1) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
2) The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
3) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
4) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
5) The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child.
6) The moral fitness of the parents.
7) The mental and physical health of the parents.
8) The home, school, and community record of the child.
9) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
10) The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.
11) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
12) The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
13) The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.
14) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
15) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
16) The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.
17) The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.
18) Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.
19) Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought. If the court accepts evidence of prior or pending actions regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, the court must specifically acknowledge in writing that such evidence was considered when evaluating the best interests of the child.
20) Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
The above list is not exhaustive and there are other factors that may be relevant to determining the best interests of the child and the court will take these into account as necessary.
There are certain special considerations if one or both parents serve in the military, so it is important to confer with Jeffrey Feulner, a military divorce attorney, to protect your child custody rights.
If you need assistance with your divorce, contact the Men’s Divorce Law Firm today. Our approach to family law is quite simple: we listen to you; we return your calls promptly; we keep you prepared and informed; we respect your time; we understand your concerns; and, most importantly, we care.