How Do Florida Courts Determine Child Custody?

Child Custody

Determining the custody of a child is not a task the courts take lightly. Florida has implemented a number of statutory factors and presumptions that a court must consider before making a final custody determination. Therefore, the determination of custody is a lengthy and complicated process. Employing the help of a knowledgeable Orlando Child Custody Attorney can be of great value when approaching the court with a child custody determination.

There are two types of custody arrangements in Florida; sole or joint custody. Sole custody is when one parent is awarded both legal and physical custody of the child. Meanwhile, joint custody is when the parents share legal and physical custody equally. Florida has a statutory presumption for a shared parenting plan and that every child have “frequent and continuing contact with both parents” and “encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing.” 61.13(c)(1) This presumption would be overcome with the showing that continued contact would be detrimental to the child. Detriment may be shown through a parent’s criminal history, domestic violence, or abuse. 61.13(c)(2). However, the presumption is difficult to overcome and more often the court finds that a shared custody is necessary and will then formulate a shared parenting plan.

When the court orders a shared parenting plan, they can take into account the best interest of the child and expressed desires of the parents. The best interest of the child is the most crucial consideration to the court. However, this standard takes into account a number of different factors and are listed below:

(a) 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.

(b) The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.

(c) 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.

(d) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.

(e) 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.

(f) The moral fitness of the parents.

(g) The mental and physical health of the parents.

(h) The home, school, and community record of the child.

(i) The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.

(j) 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.

(k) 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.

(l) 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.

(m) 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.

(n) 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.

(o) 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.

(p) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.

(q) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.

(r) 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.

(s) The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.

(t) Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.

The court is required to consider each and every factor, and in doing such will create a parenting plan best fit for your family and child in particular. This plan will be a detailed time schedule and will hold the responsibilities delegated to each party. This plan is crucial to the custody of the child and will guide you and your partner throughout the child’s life. This plan will detail the day to day care of the child, the holidays spent with each parent, the weekdays, and weekends spent with each parent and can even delegate the decision making of education, and health decisions of a child.

Even if your custody case is an amicable one, the court requires parenting plans to be completed. Having an experienced Orlando Child Custody Attorney by your side will ensure that your rights, and those of your children, are protected.

Speaking to an attorney at our office is free of charge, and we accept calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us at 407-512-0887 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with a member of our team today.

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