In my experience as a family court attorney, I’ve guided many parents seeking a divorce through the child custody process. In Florida, judges base their decisions about legal custody on the best interest of the child. Florida law operates on the understanding that most often a child will benefit from maintaining contact with both parents. This understanding means that both parents start on equal footing when it comes to determining custody arrangements.
However, judges consider many factors when deciding legal custody, including the following.
Although child custody proceedings in Florida begin with the assumption that children are best served when both parents are involved, they do not always end with both parents maintaining legal custody of a child. If a court finds that maintaining contact with one parent is detrimental to a child’s safety or health—as in cases involving sexual and physical violence, child abuse, abandonment, and neglect—the offending parent can lose custody and even visitation rights. The court may also consider the mental and physical health of each parent in its decision.
Developmental and Emotional Needs
As a family court attorney, I can say that parents need to put their children first if they want to maintain their rights as parents. When ruling on child custody cases, judges also weight the child’s developmental and emotional needs and how well each parent can meet those needs. In short, parents need to demonstrate that they are involved and interested in their child’s life and can provide a stable daily routine. In some cases, the judge may consider how travel time between homes impacts the child’s life. If they deem that the child is emotionally mature, the judge may also include the child’s custody preference in their decision.
The court will also look at how well parents cooperate with one another in decisions about their child. Co-parenting continues after divorce, which means that even though parents may hold negative feelings toward one another, they still need to communicate about major decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. Regardless of their feelings about each other, co-parents need to keep each other informed about any issues that concern the wellbeing of the child. Any Florida family court attorney will advise that making disparaging or otherwise negative comments about the other parent can lead to consequences in the custody decision.
In Florida, the courts also include something called “moral fitness” in child custody rulings. If one parent engages in any illegal activities, drug use, or otherwise puts the child’s moral and ethical development at risk, the custody arrangement may reflect it.
Talk to a Family Court Attorney
Many factors go into the child custody choice that the courts make for divorced parents. If you want to make sure you have the best chance of getting a fair ruling on your child custody case, you need an expert family attorney to guide you. Get in touch with me today to discuss your options.