Family Law cases can be very complicated and emotional for the parties involved. These cases can be even more intense when there is a child involved. Divorce and custody cases put children in a difficult place because they may be unsure where they will end up living, and many don't want to choose. Courts generally don't want to get children too involved in the proceedings. However, there are times when a child does express a preference for which parent to live with.
In Florida, the Court looks at what is in the best interest of the child. This standard takes into account several factors in determining which parent gets the parental responsibility for the child. Generally, the Court will not allow a child to decide which parent to live with. It could consider the child's preference along with other factors, however, there is no guarantee that judge hear the child’s testimony.
The factors that Florida Courts consider when deciding parental responsibility are:
▪ The parent's ability to encourage the child's relationship with the other parent, follow the time-sharing schedule, and be flexible when changes to the plan are necessary.
▪ Whether the parent will need help raising the child from a third party, and the dividing up of responsibilities after the case has ended.
▪ The ability of the parents to make decisions based on the child's needs and not their own.
▪ The time that the child has lived in a stable environment and the desire to continue with that arrangement.
▪ The distance between the parent's homes and the impact it will have on the child's schooling and activities.
▪ The parent's moral fitness.
▪ Each parent's physical and mental health.
▪ The child's education records as well as documents from the community and any documentation at home.
▪ The child's reasonable desire to live with the parent. There is no specific age requirement. Rather, the child must have the capacity to understand, express, and formulate a choice.
▪ The parent's involvement, knowledge, and understanding of the child's schooling and activities.
▪ The parent's ability to provide and maintain a routine for the child.
▪ The ability to communicate with the other parent and inform them of any issue or concern.
▪ The presence of any abuse which includes physical, sexual, or neglect.
▪ Whether the parent has not been truthful in court about any pending actions for abuse.
▪ The responsibilities that each parent previously performed.
▪ The ability of the parents to participate in the child's academics and activities.
▪ Whether the parent can facilitate a drug-free environment.
▪ The ability of the parent to refrain from disparaging the other parent in front of the child. Also, the ability of the parent to refrain from involving the child in any on-going litigation.
▪ The parent's ability to meet the child's needs.
When deciding these types of cases, the Court will weigh all of the factors after hearing the case. If you have a custody dispute, a skilled attorney can help you. Contact us today for a consultation.