When divorcing spouses share children, one of the most contentious and
emotional issues endured will involve who is awarded custody of the children.
In Florida, if a divorce goes through litigation, and this decision falls
into the hands of a judge, custody will be based on what is perceived
to be in the best interests of the children. While this sounds simple
enough, you might be wondering exactly what that is meant by the words
“best interests” and what factors are considered to determine this.
These two words encompass much more than most might realize, but every
factor that is considered by the court falls into one of the following
Health and safety: Generally, family courts are in favor of shared parental responsibility.
However, this policy will not apply if it is determined that such an arrangement
would harm the children. If there is evidence of domestic or sexual abuse,
abandonment, or neglect, a parent could lose his or her custody or visitation
rights. The court will also consider the mental and physical health of
both parents as well as any evidence of substance abuse within a parent’s
home while determining custody.
Emotional and developmental needs: It is expected for parents to put the needs of their children before their
own and, as such, the court will consider the extent to which each parent
has exhibited the desire and ability adequately meet the needs of their
children. Evidence used to determine this might include whether or not
the parent knows his or her children’s friends, teachers, medical
care providers, or if the parent is aware of school and extracurricular
activities. Not only will the court consider how active a parent is in
the lives of the children, it will also consider a parent’s ability
to provide routines for the children, including schedules for mealtime,
bedtime, and homework, which promote stability and consistency.
If a judge believes that a child is old enough and mature enough, he or
she might consider his or her preference regarding custody.
Co-parenting and communication: In Florida, family courts often emphasize the ability of each parent to
encourage a positive relationship between the child and the other parent.
Therefore, a judge will assess each parent’s willingness to honor
the ordered time-sharing scheduled and how open they are to making reasonable
adjustments that do not necessitate court intervention. It is also important
to the court that both parents are able to communicate with one another
and keep each other informed of their children’s activities and
other important issues. Additionally, the court expects both parents to
protect their children from the burdens of divorce.
Moral fitness: What is moral fitness? It refers to circumstances that could impact a
child’s moral and ethical development. For example, if a parent
exposes their children to substance abuse, frequent casual relationships,
verbal abuse, or any type of illegal behavior, the court will likely perceive
this as a threat to the moral and ethical development of a child. It is
also possible that a judge might consider the behavior of an adulterous
parent impactful to a child’s development.
There are two types of custody, legal and physical. Legal custody refers
to a parent’s responsibility to make decisions regarding the health,
education, and general welfare of their children, whereas physical custody
refers to the parent with whom the children will primarily live with.
Although Florida favors joint legal custody, depending on the circumstances,
it is possible that a court might grant sole legal custody, joint legal
custody, or some other combination that is believed to be in the best
interests of the children. Ultimately, there is no presumption of favor
toward either parent when it comes to custody. It is solely based on what
will provide a child with the healthiest, safest, and happiest circumstances possible.
Child Custody Attorney in Orlando
If you are in the midst of a child custody dispute, you are already aware
of how heart-wrenching the process can be, especially for your children.
At R. Gregory Colvin, LLC, we work closely with our clients and their
children to help create a child custody arrangement that meets their needs
and allows them to pursue a better and brighter future. Turn to our Orlando
team today. With over 25 years of experience on our side, you can be confident
in our ability to navigate your family through this process and find solutions
that are tailored to your specific goals.
Contact our office today at
(407) 603-3460 to schedule a free initial consultation with a knowledgeable member of
our legal team.