Top Seven Child Custody Factors in Florida
Most good parents agree that divorce child custody and visitation provisions should be in the best interests of the children. However, most parents disagree as to what constitutes a child’s best interests. Furthermore, some parents confuse the best interests of the child with the wishes of the child or the best interests of the parents.
To address these difficulties, Florida law sets forth a number of different child custody factors. These objective factors help avoid subjective decisions which are based largely on sympathy. Additionally, objective factors help judges in subsequent modification actions. The judge can clearly see if the changed circumstances were relevant to the original parenting time arrangement.
For the most part, Port St. Lucie family law attorneys weigh these factors equally. A few, however, have greater weight.
Objective factors avoid subjective decisions and also help in subsequent modifications
Child’s Recent Educational and Domestic Background
Most family law judges like to see consistency. They prefer for children to stay in the same school and live in the same place that they were during the separation period. That’s usually true even if the child’s grades were only average and there were some issues at home.
Parent’s Health Status
Some parents have physical, emotional, or other disabilities which affect their parenting abilities. If Sarah suffers from bouts of depression and frequently goes into a shell or takes mood-altering drugs, Sarah may not be the best person to take care of small children. Of course, these decisions do not occur in a vacuum. So, to truly affect the outcome, Mike’s overall health must be significantly better than Sarah’s.
Parent’s Financial Status
Domestic Support Obligations, like child support and spousal support, partially mitigate this factor. But DSOs only go so far, especially if the spousal support award is only temporary, and that is usually the case. At the same time, money is not everything. And, if a parent is rather affluent, that probably means the parent works long hours to maintain that standard of living.
Any History of Domestic Violence
This factor may be one of the “dealbreaker” factors. If there is any history of domestic violence in either parent’s background, that parent may not be qualified to serve as a residential parent. In fact, that parent may not even be qualified to serve as a full-time nonresidential parent. The judge may order limited or supervised visitation in these cases.
Emotional Bond Between Parent and Child
This factor is especially relevant in modifications, because emotional bonds change over time. In general, many children feel closer to their mothers when they are young and closer to their fathers when they are older. But many other factors may also affect the ties that bind.
Ability to Co-Parent
Co-parenting is a relatively new concept in Florida. The state’s law now presumes that most children benefit from frequent and consistent contact with both parents. So, over-aggressiveness could be counterproductive. If one spouse refuses to compromise on any issue, the judge may conclude that the intransigent parent would not be a good co-parent.
Ability to Foster a Relationship with the Other Parent
Co-parenting alone is not enough. The law requires more than basic civility and tolerance. Ideally, a residential parent will encourage contact with the nonresidential parent (e.g. “Your dad will pick you up after school instead of after dinner”). Many parents can be civil co-parents, but they cannot take the next step.
Work with an Experienced Lawyer
Child custody decisions involve a number of factors. For a free consultation with an experienced Port St. Lucie divorce attorney, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. We routinely handle matters throughout the Treasure Coast area.