Overview of the Child’s Best Interests Standard in Florida Divorce Cases
Your rights and responsibilities as parents remain the same when you go through the divorce process in Florida, even though you will no longer be living under the same roof. Under Florida’s statute on parenting and time-sharing in divorce proceedings, i.e., custody and visitation, it’s still necessary for parents to address the needs of minor children. The key to custody and visitation – and the paramount factor for the court – is whether the arrangement serves the child’s best interests as defined by law. You can trust a Dade City child custody lawyer to assist with achieving your objectives as a parent, but some background information may be helpful.
Why the Child’s Best Interests Standard Matters: Care and support of minor children is one of the three central considerations in a divorce case; property division and alimony are the others. As part of your parental obligations, divorcing couples must determine how you’ll make important decisions involved with raising your child. You need to address living arrangements, visitation also known as timesharing , health care, educational issues, and many other issues.
The child’s best interests standard comes into play under two different scenarios:
- The statute encourages parents to come to an agreement on custody and visitation, which can then be formalized in a parenting plan. In such a situation, the judge would carefully review the agreement and ensure it complies with the best interests factors listed in Florida Statute 61.13. If it withstands this review, the parenting plan becomes an official order of the court
- If you cannot agree, the court will make a determination after a hearing. Both sides can present evidence and arguments, and the judge will apply the statutory factors to decide custody and visitation for the minor child.
Factors Included in Determining the Child’s Best Interests: The analysis of what is in the child’s best interests is very subjective, because it’s based upon the specific needs and circumstances of the family. There are 20 factors listed in the statute, covering such issues as:
- Each parent’s ability and willingness to promote a relationship with the other parent
- The mental and physical health of the parents;
- The home, school, and community environment of the child;
- The status quo of the child’s current living arrangement;
- The ability of parents to cooperate and honor the arrangement for custody and visitation; and,
- The Court may consider the wishes of the child, if he or she is of sufficient maturity however most Judges do not think it is in the child’s interest to testify to this factor.
- Many others.
In addition, the final factor is a “catch-all” item in the statute that allows the court to consider other factors that are relevant to the parenting plan, time-sharing, and parental responsibilities
Contact a Florida Child Custody and Visitation Attorney for More Information
Our team at The Law Office of Laurie R. Chane represents clients throughout Pasco County in a wide range of divorce matters, including issues involving minor children. To learn more about the child’s best interests standard and its application to your case, please call 352-567-0055 or complete an online contact form. We can set up a consultation to review your circumstances at our office.