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What Is The “Best Interests Of The Child Standard” In A Florida Custody Case?


In years past, states would generally favor the mother when awarding custody of the children to one parent or another. Today, all states have moved away from this standard and employed another. Instead, when determining custody, the state will make a determination based on the best interests of the child. This standard assumes that having both parents in the child’s life is beneficial to the child. Recent changes to Florida law have strengthened this presumption. Today, the court must find a good reason to not award joint custody of the children and equal time sharing. In this article, the Orlando child custody attorneys at Greater Orlando Family Law will discuss the best interests of the child standard and how it plays out in Florida courts.

Courts default on shared parental responsibility

Florida law requires judges to order shared parental responsibility (or joint custody) unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility would not be in the best interests of the child. In other words, the court must be presented with evidence that “creates a rebuttable presumption” that shared custody would be detrimental to the child. Evidence can include:

  • One parent is found guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor charge of domestic violence
  • A parent meets any of the grounds under Florida Statute § 39.806 for terminating parental rights
  • A parent was convicted under Florida Statute § 943.0435 of a sexual offense involving a victim under 18 years of age when the parent was over the age of 18 at the time of the offense

What factors does the judge consider when determining the best interests of the child? 

Ultimately, the family court judge has sole discretion when it comes to deciding the best interests of the children. They can determine how much weight to give any given factor listed below. The statute lays forth the guidelines that the court can consider when determining the best interests of the child. These include:

  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable environment and the desire to maintain that stability
  • The mental and physical health of the parents
  • The moral fitness of the parents
  • The willingness and capacity of each parent to foster a close, nurturing relationship with the other parent
  • The child’s home, community, and school records
  • The ability of the parents to execute their parenting plan and time-sharing in terms of their geographic location
  • The child’s preference, if the child is old enough to make informed decisions
  • The ability of each parent to meet the child’s needs by providing a consistent routine
  • Evidence of sexual misconduct, child neglect, child abuse, domestic violence, or abandonment 

Talk to an Orlando Child Custody Attorney Today 

Greater Orlando Family Law represents the interests of parents who are in custody battles over their children. Call our Orlando family lawyers today to schedule an appointment, and we can begin discussing strategy right away.

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