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Florida’s “Best Interest of the Child” Standard

The general legal standard in child custody battles typically involves the court asking what is in the best interest of the child. Under this standard, custody battles can get messy, with each parent sometimes accusing the other of poor parenting and even more serious allegations, such as child negligence or sexual abuse.

According to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, all child custody litigation will take place in the child’s home state, which is where the child resided for six months prior to the proceedings. If that is in the state of Florida, you will be dealing with a system that is predisposed to provide the child with access to both parents via having them develop a parenting plan.

Florida Law

Florida law declares that the court must take into account the best interests of the child when creating a parenting plan. This determination is made by evaluating all of the factors affecting the welfare and interests of the child and the circumstances of the family, including but not limited to:

  • The expected division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including those to third parties;
  • The capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child instead of their own;
  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desire to maintain that;
  • The geographic viability of the parenting plan;
  • The moral fitness of the parents;
  • The mental and physical health of the parents;
  • The home, school, and community record of the child;
  • The reasonable preference of the child;
  • The ability of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child;
  • The ability of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child;
  • The ability of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues regarding the child;
  • Any evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, etc.
  • The parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent; and
  • Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.

Clearly, any conduct that could place the physical or emotional well-being of a child in danger will impact both custody and visitation rights, and this includes drug use and alcoholism.

The Importance of an Experienced Custody Attorney

Parenting plans arguably take the place of traditional notions of custody and visitation, and describe the daily tasks associated with the child’s schedule, time shred with each parent, other important health and school-related issues, and how the parents will maintain contact with the child. The state has parents take a course on Parent Education and Family Stabilization before putting together their plan, and the relevant Circuit Court will sometimes offer helpful resources. However, consulting an experienced family law attorney during this process is always wise.

For more on child custody (including temporary, guardianship, visitation, and relocation, contact Sandra Bonfiglio today for a consultation and to learn more about your rights.

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