Child Custody: The “Child’s Best Interest” Standard

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Deciding on child custody arrangements (officially referred to as the “parenting plan” in Florida) is usually the most contentious part of any divorce. It’s possible, though, for you and your spouse to come up with a parenting plan on your own or with the help of a mediator. For the contested divorces in which a judge must decide on the issue of physical custody (time-sharing agreements in Florida), the judge’s primary consideration is a set of factors that collectively comprise what is known as the “best interests of the child.

Note that the word “parents” is not included in the name of that legal standard; no matter how much time you spend raising or supporting your child relative to your spouse, the state of Florida recognizes the benefits of having both parents’ involvement in a child’s life. A total of 20 factors are considered by the judge when determining the best interests of a particular child; to help you understand the general spirit of this legal standard, we will cover some of the notable factors in this blog.

What Goes into the “Child’s Best Interest?”

While we will not go into detail on every one of the 20 factors, judges generally consider each factor equally and do not place any extra weight on one consideration. That said, a few of these factors include:

  • Any history of domestic violence between the parents or between one parent and the child
  • The capacity for each parent to help the child have a positive relationship with both parents and, generally, follow the parenting plan as laid out by the judge

  • The stability of each home environment and the ability of each parent to provide a stable, loving household for the child
  • The “demonstrated capacity” for each parent to involve himself or herself in the child’s educational pursuits and extracurricular activities
  • The readiness of each parent to help establish and maintain a consistent and healthy day-to-day routine for the child “Any other relevant factor” that the judge deems feels is necessary to consider when creating a parenting plan for the child (this is the 20th and final factor)

The last factor acts as a catch-all for the judge. Even though judges are obligated to take all 20 factors into account when coming up with an optimal time-sharing agreement, there is still quite a bit of leeway for them to consider whatever they feel is necessary to create the best parenting plan possible.

Conclusion

This blog is only intended to serve as a general introduction to the important legal standard of the “child’s best interest,” which factors heavily into questions about parenting plans and time-sharing agreements in Florida. To ensure that your interests are well-represented in your divorce, it is crucial to find a knowledgeable and effective family law firm who understands your situation and can help you navigate the process.

Divorce and Mediation Law Firm has a singular focus on helping spouses in south Florida efficiently go through divorce with minimal stress. Ready to discuss your options? Call the firm today at (954)-447-2580 to set up a free, confidential appointment with one of our attorneys.

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