How is Child Custody Determined in Florida?

Child custody refers to the care, control, and maintenance of a minor child. In Florida, and in other states throughout the country, state child custody laws help determine which parent gets legal and physical custody. Legal custody establishes who can make educational, medical, disciplinary, and religious decisions, while physical custody establishes where a child will live.

Child custody can be awarded to one parent (i.e. sole custody) or to both parents (i.e. joint custody).When divorcing parents come into court for a decision on parenting arrangements, Florida judges base their decisions on the “best interests of the child.”

Although the best interests of the child are difficult to quantify, several factors which may determine best interests include the following:

  • Physical health of each parent
  • Mental health of each parent
  • Each parent’s ability and desire to meet a child’s developmental needs and be involved in the child’s life.
  • Each parent’s ability to communicate with the other parent
  • The wishes of the child, if he or she is old or mature enough
  • The age and gender of the child
  • Cultural and religious considerations
  • The need for the continuation of a stable home environment
  • The support and opportunity for interaction with extended family members
  • The ability of the child to adjust to changes in community or school
  • The relationship of the child with siblings and other household members
  • Evidence of parental alcohol, drug, or child/sex abuse
  • Emotional abuse directed at the childe by a parent
  • Any history of domestic violence

If you and the other parent cannot reach a mutually acceptable arrangement when it comes to shared parental responsibilities, a Florida judge could make those decisions for you, determining which parent is better suited to be the custodial parent. While the court often thinks that contact with both parents remains in the best interests of the child, negative life choices (e.g. use of drugs or alcohol, instances of domestic violence, or incarceration) are taken into consideration.

If co-parenting is not possible, a Florida judge will likely consider the following factors when determining the parental responsibility of the child:

  • Which parent can provide the more stable home environment
  • Which parent can provide necessary items, such as food, clothing, and medical care
  • Which parent is more likely to allow the child to have a continuing relationship with the other parent
  • Each parent’s job security
  • Each parent’s moral fitness
  • The emotional bond between each parent and the child
  • Each parent’s knowledge of the child’s schedule, medical information, school information, likes, dislikes, and friends
  • The amount of time the child has been in a stable home environment
  • Each parent’s “proposed” home after the divorce
  • The parenting task often performed by each parent
  • Whether one parent frequently travels for his or her job
  • Any evidence of domestic violence, child abuse, or child neglect

A custody agreement is a lengthy document that requires many difficult discussions. With support from a New Port Richey family lawyer from Dale L. Bernstein, Chartered Law Office, you can reach a fair resolution.

For more information, contact us at (727) 312-1112 and schedule an appointment today.


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