Determining the Best Interests of a Child in Florida
In issuing child support orders, approving child custody arrangements, determining a family member’s visitation rights, and making any decisions regarding a child’s welfare, Florida courts must consider what is in the child’s best interests.
Note that Florida values a child’s relationship with both parents and encourages parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing. In fact, it is important to note that neither the father nor mother are presumed to be more able to provide care for the child. Instead, the court uses the “best interests of the child” standard to make these decisions.
The best interests standard is the cornerstone of Florida family law, which is why it’s important to understand what factors influence this determination. Here are the factors that courts take into account when considering a child’s best interests:
- Whether the parents are willing and able to encourage the child’s relationship with the other parent and honor the custody agreement,
- How the parents will divide their responsibilities,
- Whether the parents are willing and able to put the child’s needs above their own,
- How long the child has been in a particular environment and the child’s school and community involvement,
- Where each parent lives and how much time would be spent traveling between them (this can be tied to parental relocation),
- Each parent’s moral fitness and physical and mental health,
- The child’s reasonable preference, if the court considers the child sufficiently mature to express that preference,
- Whether the parents are willing and able to stay informed of the child’s friends, teachers, daily activities, favorite things and other important life aspects,
- Whether the parents are willing and able to establish and keep a routine for the child,
- Whether the parents are willing and able to keep the other parent informed of issues affecting the child and their willingness to maintain a united front,
- Any domestic violence or neglect, or false or misleading information provided about these issues,
- Whether the parents are willing and able to be engaged in the child’s school and other activities, such as attending sporting events or chaperoning field trips,
- Whether the parents expose the child to substance abuse,
- Whether the parents discuss the case with the child and are willing not to make acrimonious comments to the child about the other parent,
- The child’s developmental stage and needs and whether the parents are willing and able to meet those needs,
- Any other relevant factors.
“Other relevant factors” are often unique to the child and the family. An experienced family law attorney can help determine what factors are relevant to your case.
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The family law attorneys at the Williams & Varsegi, LLC, can help you reach a custody agreement or fight for a child support arrangement that’s in the best interests of your child. Contact us today for a free consultation. We are here for all of your family law needs.