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What do Florida judges look at when making custody decisions?

It would be nice if divorcing couples were always able to come to terms with one another and cooperate in making mutually acceptable decisions in order to move the divorce process along. As we all know, though, this is not the reality of things.

When it comes to custody matters, couples sometimes bring so much negative personal history to the decision-making process that they are unable to come to an agreement. When this happens, family law courts have to step in and come up with a custody plan. The biggest concern with custody arrangements, of course, is the best interests of the children.

The best interests of the child standard represents the basic idea that custody decisions are not primarily for the benefit of the parents, but for the children. Florida judges making custody determinations are supposed to consider all factors impacting the welfare and interests of the child. This includes a consideration of factors directly related both to the parents and to the children, as well as other factors.

Considerations relating directly to the parents include matters such as:

  • Each parent’s ability to work with the other parent in custody matters;
  • Each parent’s willingness to act in the interests of the child;
  • Each parent’s track record of taking an active interest in the child; and
  • The mental and physical health, as well as moral fitness, of each parent;

Then there are factors relating more directly to the children, including:

  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable and satisfactory environment;
  • The developmental stage and needs of the child;
  • The child’s history of performance within his or her respective school or community; and
  • The reasonable preference of the child, if the child is considered old enough.

Then, there are other factors to consider, such as the viability of a parenting plan from a geographic perspective and the extent to which parental responsibilities would be delegated in any given parenting plan.

Because judges have a significant degree of latitude when making child custody decisions, it is important for parents to ensure that the judge has all the information he or she needs to make an informed decisions. Working with an experienced family law attorney can help make sure this happens. 

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