How the "Best Interests of the Child" Are Determined

How the "Best Interests of the Child" Are Determined

Posted By R. Gregory Colvin LLC || 21-Feb-2018

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 basic categories:

  • Safety and wellbeing: Generally, family courts prefer parents to share responsibilities. However, this policy will not apply if such an arrangement would harm the children. If there is evidence of domestic or sexual abuse, neglect, or abandonment, 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.
  • Developmental and emotional needs: It is expected for parents to put the needs of their children before their own and, as such, the court will consider each parent's 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 the child is mature enough and old enough, he or she might consider his or her preference regarding custody.

  • Co-parenting and communication: In Florida, family courts often emphasize the importance of each parent's willingness to support 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 frequent casual relationships, verbal abuse, substance 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 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 are dedicated to helping our clients navigate the most difficult family law matters. 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.

Categories: Divorce, Child Custody

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