Florida law generally presumes that parents know what is best for their children, but sometimes divorced parents can’t reach an agreement between themselves about their child custody issues. When this happens, courts have to decide. In some cases, a court may create a time-sharing schedule for the parents to share child custody and visitation.
The best interests of the child
Courts base child custody decisions on their determination of the best interests of the child. This phrase isn’t just a figure of speech. It refers to a legal standard, and includes a number of factors courts must consider when making their decisions.
In the context of a child custody case, courts consider many factors, including:
- Each parent’s ability and willingness to create a close relationship with the child and to stick to the terms of the time-sharing agreement.
- The division of parental responsibilities after the plan is in place.
- Each parent’s demonstrated capacity to put the child’s needs ahead of their own.
- The child’s history at home and in school.
- The relationship between the child and each parent.
- The physical, mental and moral fitness of the parents.
- Each parent’s ability and willingness to communicate with the other parent about the child’s needs.
Courts will also look for any history of domestic violence, any evidence of substance abuse, and any evidence that either parent has been untruthful with the court. These are just some of the factors listed under Florida law. Courts can consider any other factor they consider relevant.
Who knows best?
Parents can take some comfort in knowing that courts will consider all these factors, but nonetheless it can be very uncomfortable for parents to have a judge making decisions about their relationship with their child. Family law attorneys can help parents understand how to stand up for their rights.