20 Steps Florida Courts Use to Determine Child Custody

In a contested divorce, child custody is by far the most complex issue. Learn more about 20 factors written into Florida statutes that courts use to make a decision

Among the most complex cases in the field of family law are those that involve parental time-sharing, colloquially known as "custody battles".  The complicated nature of time-sharing cases is reflected in Florida Statutes §61.13, which is the primary rule governing time-sharing in Florida.

It specifically lists no less than twenty different factors that must be considered by a court in determining parental time-sharing. These factors are all necessary steps for the court to determine what is in the child's best interests. Florida Statutes §61.13 clearly state "the best interest of the child shall be the primary consideration."

Continue reading for a brief description of these 20 factors outlined in Florida statutes.

  1. Each parent's ability to encourage the relationship between the other parent and the child.
  2. How the parents will likely share responsibilities after the litigation is over, including how much those responsibilities will be given to third parties.
  3. Each parent's ability to consider and act upon the child's needs instead of their own.
  4. The amount of time the child has lived in a stable and satisfactory environment.
  5. How practical the parenting plan is based on the needs of the child, such as where the child attends school and the amount of traveling time necessary to carry out the parenting plan.
  6. The moral fitness of the parents.
  7. The mental and physical health of the parents.
  8. The record of the child at home, school, and in the greater community.
  9. The child's preference, if the child is sufficiently mature for the court to consider his or her preference.
  10. Each parent's ability to remain informed of the child's circumstances such as the child's friends, teachers, doctors, daily activities, and favorite things.
  11. Each parent's ability to provide a consistent routine for the child, including discipline for the child, and establishing daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
  12. Each parent's ability to communicate with the other parent about any issues and/or activities regarding the child, and the willingness of the parents to adopt a unified front on all major issues.
  13. Any evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect. The court is required by law to specifically acknowledge in writing that such evidence was considered when evaluating the best interests of the child.
  14. Any evidence that either parent has knowingly lied to the court regarding any domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect cases.
  15. How the parents shared responsibilities before the litigation began, including how much of those parenting responsibilities were given by third parties.
  16. The ability of each parent to be involved in the child's school and extracurricular activities.
  17. The ability of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from any substance abuse.
  18. The ability of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation by not sharing information about the proceedings or discussing the proceedings with the child.
  19. The current stage child's development and the ability of each parent to meet the child's developmental needs.
  20. Any other factor that is relevant to determine a time-sharing schedule.

For more information about how these factors could affect the parental time-sharing portion of your case, contact Sarasota family law attorneys at Icard-Merrill at (941) 366-8100 to schedule an appointment and discuss your case today. And for more general information about family law, child custody and much more, we invite you to continue browsing our blog and knowledge center.

*DISCLAIMER – This article is general in nature and intended for informational purposes. It is in no way meant to replace legal counsel.