Child Custody Laws in Florida, By Joseph Gufford

Parties going through a divorce in Florida should know about the state’s child custody laws. The term “custody” is a word that is used in the common vernacular but is really not used in the Courtroom because almost all references to it have been eliminated in the Florida Statutes. Florida prefers to award “shared parenting”, meaning that both parents must confer with each other when making major decisions affecting the welfare of their child. Then, the Court develops a Parenting Plan that preferably allows the children to spend quality time with both parents. Generally, the Parenting Plan is developed considering the overall best interests of the child. When the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, the court will make the decision for them after considering the totality of the circumstances, with the overriding consideration being the child’s best interests.
To make that determination, the court considers the following factors:
1.The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required;

2.The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties;

3.The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.

4.The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment.and the desirability of maintaining continuity.

5.The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child.

6.The moral fitness of the parents.

7.The mental and physical health of the parents.

8.The home, school, and community record of the child.

9.The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
10.The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.

11.The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.

12.The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.

13.Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought

14.Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.

15.The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.

16.The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.

17.The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse

18.The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.

19.The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.

20. Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.

The Florida court will also approve a parent and child relocation if both parents sign an agreement that expresses consent and details how the child will continue to have a relationship with both parents. Child relocation can also be court ordered pursuant to the factors set forth in Fla. Stat. 61.13001. Child custody is generally not modified unless there has been a substantial change in circumstances and the modification is in the overall best interests of the child.

Individuals who have more questions about child custody laws should consult a lawyer.

About the Author

Joseph Gufford serves as a lawyer with and as President of Gufford & Brandt, a divorce, family, and criminal defense firm in Stuart, Florida.

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