Child custody is one of the central issues courts must resolve when the marriage ends. Florida law emphasizes the child’s best interests, meaning determining which parent will get custody depends primarily on what is best for the child.
In deciding what is best for the child, Florida courts consider multiple factors:
- The capacity of each parent to continue the relationship with their child, uphold the time-sharing schedule, and stay flexible when circumstances change;
- The capacity of each parent to anticipate and determine the needs of the child;
- The desirability of maintaining a stable environment for the child;
- The geographic considerations (distance from school, traveling time, etc.);
- The moral capacity of each parent;
- The mental and physical health of the parents;
- The preferences of the child (if the child can express them);
- The capacity of the parents to communicate with each other;
- The capacity of each parent to participate in the child’s school and extracurricular activities;
- Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, or child abuse;
- The developmental stages and needs of the child and the capacity of each parent to meet them;
- Other relevant factors.
Although the divorce ends the marriage, parental obligations and responsibilities stay. Both spouses play a central role in developing a functional parenting plan that will enable them to fulfill their parental responsibilities.
The factors that each parenting plan should include are:
- Time-sharing schedule that works for school schedule and work schedule;
- The right of first refusal;
- Travel considerations (if parents live in different states or remote cities);
- Designation of child care providers;
- Holidays and family events;
- Other considerations.
Moving to another location puts an additional burden on both parents and children. Florida law requires the custodian parent to obtain permission to relocate from the non-custodial parent. If a parent moves to another location without consent, the other parent can file for the so-called pick-up court order, requiring the parent to return the child to the state of Florida.
Florida judges need to consider multiple factors before allowing the relocation of children:
- The nature of their relationship with their parents;
- The age, developmental stage, and needs of the child;
- The impact of the relocation on the development of the child (emotional, educational, and physical);
- The arguments for and against relocation;
- The preferences of the child (if they can express them);
- The employment status of each parent;
- Other relevant circumstances.
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Scott A. Levine is a Florida attorney practicing law since 1996. In his decades-long professional experience, Mr. Levine established a record of success representing clients in the most contested family law cases.
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