10 Factors That May Determine Your Child Custody Rights
How to get Child Custody in Florida
The state of Florida no longer assigns primary or secondary custody; instead, time is usually split 50/50. If the parents cannot agree or the courts find that equal time sharing is not in the child’s best interest, one parent may be granted custody for the majority of the time.
How is Custody Determined?
During a divorce, parents will need to come to an agreement regarding time-sharing and decision-making. This is called a parenting plan and must still be submitted in writing for official approval from the court.
If a parenting plan cannot be agreed upon by both parents, the court will assist with the process by determining what is in the best interests of the child. Evidence can be submitted to the state of Florida courts to demonstrate why a particular factor favors one parent over another. This evidence can be submitted through personal testimony or witness testimony by family, friends and teachers.
Parents are also able to secure the services of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) who will interview and observe the family, witnesses and, if they are old enough, the child. The GAL will then make an unbiased recommendation to the court regarding custody.
More questions about Child Custody? View our “6 Most Common Questions About Child Custody” blog post.
Factors in Determining Custody Awards
There are a number of primary factors that the court will look at in determining how to award child custody:
- Parental Responsibilities. Who is taking primary responsibility? How much of the work is being done by a third party? Examples of third parties can be nannies, caretakers, grandparents, etc. Tasks that each parent is accustomed to performing and how the tasks were divided before the divorce will also be taken into consideration.
- Child’s Living Arrangements. What is the child’s current living situation? The ability to provide a stable and satisfactory environment for your child is key to having custody. Courts do not want to put children into a situation where additional lifestyle changes need to be made. Examples of lifestyle changes can be moving into a new town, home and school. Divorce is difficult enough, and being able to have a living arrangement that is comfortable and beneficial for your child is critical.
- Parent’s Well-being. Which parent is the better fit for their child? The overall well-being of each parent is reviewed prior to making a child custody decision. The moral status, mental health, and physical health of the parents are critical elements in the court making their decision.
- Child’s Preference. Who does the child prefer? Depending on the age of the child, their preference can be taken into consideration. Younger children are more likely to be influenced by their parents during a custody battle. Older or more mature children’s preferences can be looked at as valid because they can be more capable of making their own decisions.
- Awareness. How aware is each parent of what is going on in their child’s life? Reviewing each parent’s ability to stay informed on the child’s life. This can include friends, grades, teachers, doctors, extracurricular activities, favorites, etc.
- Consistent Lifestyle for Child. How consistent is each parent in their child’s life? The parent’s ability to provide a consistent routine for the child is critical. This can include discipline to implement daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
- Involvement in Child’s Life. How involved is each parent in their child’s activities? The ability of each parent to be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities. Parents can involve themselves by attending events, helping with homework, asking questions, and discussing events/activities to stay up to date on what is happening on a daily basis.
- Free from Substance Abuse. Are drugs or alcohol an issue for either parent? The ability for each parent to maintain an environment that is free from any substance abuse can indicate a healthy lifestyle for the child.
- Cooperativeness with other parent. How well do the parents interact following a divorce? The parent’s willingness to cooperate and encourage contact with the other parent, and the ability to communicate about any issues regarding the child with the other parent.
- Domestic Violence. If there is evidence of violence, abuse or child neglect, either a prior or pending action, the court can use that as a factor when considering what is in the best interests of the child.
Contact LaFrance Law if you would like help in understanding your parental rights and creating a parenting plan that is in the best interest of your children while providing you the quality time you deserve.