Parents often want to shield their child from any hardships in life, especially divorce. Both parents and children go through a lot of emotional stages when the parents divorce, which can sometimes cloud a parent’s judgement. For this reason, when it comes to making time-sharing schedules in Florida courts will focus not on the parents’ best interests but on the “best interests of the child.”
What is the “best interests of the child” standard?
The basic standard for child custody decisions in Florida is the “best interests of the child.” The child’s interests will be prioritized when developing a time-sharing schedule (that is, the time each parent has the child in their physical custody) or modifying a time-sharing schedule. The aim is to ensure that the child’s needs are always being met post-divorce in a way that allows the child to have an appropriate and meaningful relationship with both parents.
How do courts determine what is in the best interests of the child?
Courts in Florida will consider a variety of factors when determining what is in the child’s best interests. Courts may consider each parent’s ability and willingness to encourage the child to have a close relationship with the other parent. Each party’s willingness to abide by the established time-sharing schedule and to be reasonable if it needs to be modified may also be considered. Whether a parent will have to regularly delegate some parental responsibilities to a third party, such as a baby-sitter, will also be considered.
How far apart the parents live from one another and how much time the child has to spend going from one house to the other to stay in line with the parenting plan may be considered. Each parent’s moral fitness will be considered as will their health. The child’s establishment in their home, school and community may be considered. Courts may consider the child’s wishes. Whether domestic violence is an issue may also be considered.
The division of parental responsibilities as customarily undertaken in the past may be considered. Each parent’s ability and willingness to be involved in the child’s education and extracurricular activities may be considered. Each parent’s willingness and ability to keep the other parent informed of important parts of the child’s life, such as who the child’s friends are, the child’s daily activities and the child’s favorite things may be considered. Courts may also consider each parent’s willingness and ability to provide the child with a consistent routine, schedule and discipline. Finally, the child’s developmental stage and needs may be considered.
The child’s needs must come first
Ultimately, when parents in Florida divorce the child’s needs must be prioritized. Divorce can be difficult for parents and children, especially if the children witness many arguments leading up to the divorce. Children need stability and love following a divorce. This means, absent abuse or neglect, a child needs to have a meaningful relationship with both parents. Time-sharing schedules must reflect this, to help the child grow and thrive post-divorce.