With every legal situation involving a child, Florida courts are required to consider the best interest of the child. Although this standard has been historically classified as ambiguous there are many factors that are enumerated in statute to provide guidelines for the court to take into consideration. These factors are critical and may all be supported with proper evidence to aid your case. Ensure you are properly informed of these factors and are prepared for argument by employing an experienced Pensacola Child Custody Attorney.
Although a commonly used phrase, the best interest of the child, is a legal term of art that provides direction for the court to foster an environment where the minor children’s needs, health, and overall wellbeing are the primary focus. Under Florida Statute 61.13, when determining each unique child’s best interest, the court must consider each of these enumerated factors:
(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.
With such exhaustive issues detailed in statute, it will be important to provide as much evidence obtainable to support each factor that is relevant to your child’s best interest. This evidence may come in the form of witness testimony, documentation, or experts. For instance, family, friends, teachers, or doctors may be asked to testify on your behalf as your involvement in the child’s life. They may describe the number of times you were present at doctor appointments, parent teacher conferences, playdates, or even your overall interaction with the child.
Physical documents may be presented in cases as well. For instance, where a parent has a criminal history or if there has been issues regarding contact between the parents physical copies will be useful. Documentation of the convictions may be presented to the court for consideration as well as copies of the phone calls, text messages, or social media posts relating to a parent’s ability to foster a healthy relationship, or engage in disparaging the other parent.
Due to the number of factors that may be considered by the court and the evidence necessary to compile a sound legal argument as to your child’s best interest, the process can be confusing, overwhelming, and difficult to embark on alone. Therefore, we encourage you to discuss your child custody dispute with an experienced Pensacola Child Custody Attorney in order to provide you with sound legal advice and assistance, ensuring you are informed and protected within your case.
Speaking to an attorney at our Pensacola office is free of charge, and we accept calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us at 850-999-5857 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with a member of our team today.