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How do courts determine child custody in Florida?

When a family is going through a divorce, one of the greatest concerns is the effect the process will have on the children involved. Divorces can be the most stressful and confusing experiences children have ever had and their well-being is a very high priority. It is this concern for their best interest that most influences custody decisions in divorce proceedings.

The best interest of the child

When discussing custody, the main issues involved are the care of the child and where the child will live. If the parents cannot come to a reasonable conclusion on their own, the court will make a decision for them. The guiding principle here is what is in the "best interests of the child." That concept is the main consideration when determining who will be in charge of the child's care. In an attempt to determine what outcome is in the best interest of the child, the court will look at many factors.

Factors that influence custody decisions

There are many factors that a court may consider, but some of the main ones include,

  • The ability of the parent to provide a healthy living environment
  • The parent's physical and mental state
  • Any existing charges of abuse (physical, drug, alcohol, etc.)
  • The parent's willingness to honor visitation rights and the involvement of the other parent
  • The ease of transition for the child
  • The relationship between the child and the parent

These are just some of the many factors that may be considered by a judge. Any parent that is involved in custody hearings should be ready and willing to provide as much information as is needed from them. This will allow them to assist the judge as much as possible in making a decision.

It is important to remember that, since the best interest of the child is always the main priority, the courts have a lot of freedom when it comes to deciding how the custody will work. It is also important to keep in mind that Florida courts no longer use the term "custody" when discussing parental rights and responsibilities, but instead use the phrases "sole parental responsibility" and "shared parental responsibility." As their names suggest, sole parental responsibility is when one parent makes decisions regarding the child, while shared parental responsibility is when both parents are granted full parental rights and responsibilities.

For instance, a court may decide that it is more beneficial for the child to give one parent the right to make decisions regarding the child's health or education or religious exposure, or they may decide that those rights will be divided between the parents. In most cases, Florida courts award shared parental responsibility.

Custody proceedings are not only complicated, but they will have a tremendous impact on the life and future of the children involved. If you find yourself in a situation in which you are dealing with custody issues or will be dealing with them, it is highly suggested that you seek out the services of an experienced and knowledgeable legal professional.