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How do Florida courts decide custody?

On Behalf of | Jul 5, 2024 | Family Law

If you are going through a divorce or separation that involves children, you probably have many questions and concerns. You may worry about losing time with your children or getting less than your fair share of custody.

While the answer to how much custody you will get depends on your specific situation, there are some factors that Florida courts use when determining custody, or parenting time, as it is often called.

The best interest of the child

Florida uses a “best interests of the child” standard in custody matters. The court examines various factors when deciding what is in your child’s best interest.

Some of these factors include:

  • Each parent’s ability to maintain a stable, safe and loving home environment
  • Each parent’s physical and mental health
  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable environment

There are several other factors considered along with these. The goal is a custody arrangement that best meets the child’s needs and keeps their welfare as a priority.

The shared custody presumption

Recent changes to the law state that there is a presumption that an equal or “50-50” approach to custody is in a child’s best interest.

This means a court is likely to order shared custody unless there is evidence showing that one parent should have more custody time than the other. If you are worried about not getting enough time with your children, this presumption could work in your favor.

However, if you are concerned about your children’s safety or welfare when they are with the other parent, a legal presumption in favor of shared custody could be a problem for you.

Additional factors that could impact custody

You may need to argue based on some additional factors Florida courts consider when deciding custody. One factor is the capacity of a parent to provide a consistent, stable routine for a child.

If your co-parent constantly lets your child stay up late with no set bedtime or does not have a regular dinner or homework schedule, this could show that they are incapable of providing a stable home life.

Post-divorce or separation, each parent is expected to continue to communicate openly and directly about child-related issues. A court will examine each parent’s capacity to communicate with the other and keep them updated on the child’s activities and well-being.

Courts are often unhappy to see one parent intentionally not communicating with the other about major events in a child’s life, such as those affecting education and healthcare.

How domestic violence can affect custody

A history of domestic violence or abuse, neglect or abandonment of the child is another factor that sometimes results in one parent receiving more custody over the other. The weight this factor is given is highly dependent on the situation.

One incident of domestic violence may not prevent a parent from seeing their child, but a consistent pattern of abuse or neglect might cause a court to order limited or supervised custody.

Evidence is necessary to make arguments on any factor you wish to use to support your position. Knowing how to properly present your evidence and argue your case can make a huge difference in the outcome of your custody proceedings.