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If parents cannot agree to a custody arrangement, the court will decide custody for the parties. For purposes of establishing or modifying parental responsibility (the ability to make major decisions for the child) and creating, developing, approving, or modifying a time-sharing schedule (physical custody arrangement), the court will determine what is in the best interest of the child by evaluating the “Best Interest Factors” listed below:

  1. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
  2. The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
  3. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
  4. The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
  5. The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child.
  6. The moral fitness of the parents.
  7. The mental and physical health of the parents.
  8. The home, school, and community record of the child.
  9. The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
  10. The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.
  11. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
  12. The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
  13. Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought. If the court accepts evidence of prior or pending actions regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, the court must specifically acknowledge in writing that such evidence was considered when evaluating the best interests of the child.
  14. Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
  15. The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.
  16. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
  17. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
  18. The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.
  19. The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.
  20. Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule. *This factor is a catch all, in which the court may consider anything else that it deems to be relevant to child’s best interests.

Fla. Stat. § 61.13(3).

Child's Election

While the court uses a number of factors to help make a custody decision, one factor that may be considered is the reasonable preference of the child. The reasonable preference of the child will only be considered “if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.” Unlike other states, in Florida the child’s preference will be considered, but is not controlling. In Florida case law, the capable age to make an intelligent decision about their time sharing preference has varied between 11 and 15 years old.

Child Custody Evaluations

  • Social Investigation

    When parents are unable to agree on a child custody arrangement for their minor child/children, the court may order a social investigation and study to help guide its ultimate custody determination. The purpose of the study is to better provide the court with relevant information about the child and parental situation that may not have otherwise been revealed in court. Typically, the study will be paid for by the parents and conducted by court staff, psychologist, clinical social worker, family therapist, or other trusted professionals.

  • Guardian Ad-Litem (GAL)

    In actions for divorce in Tampa and Orlando, parenting plan changes or creation, or upon allegations of child abuse, a court may appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL). A GAL is a certified neutral party appointed by the court to act as "next friend of the child, investigator, or evaluator, but not as attorney or advocate." GALs have the power to investigate the allegations affecting the child and interview the child, witnesses, or other persons with relevant information about their welfare. Through counsel, the GAL may request expert health and psychological examinations of the child, their parents, or other interested parties, as well as records from doctors, dentists, psychologists, and hospitals to review.

Locations

Primary Office Locations

By Appointment Only

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