Many couples in Florida who decide to end their marriages are able to resolve the issues of child custody and child support by agreement. Occasionally, however, the emotional disputes that led to the divorce get in the way of agreement on these important issues. In such cases, the couple must turn to the court for a decision on which parent will be awarded physical custody of the children.
The overriding principle in any determination of disputed custody is protecting the best interests of the child. This concept is very broad and coming to a resolution usually depends upon a number of subsidiary factors. The court must decide which parent is more likely to provide the necessary daily physical, emotional, developmental and special needs of the child. The court also looks at which parent is more likely to maintain a loving, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child. If a child is old enough to provide meaningful answers, the court may take into account the child's wishes concerning which parent he or she wishes to live with. The court may also look at the child's relationships with siblings or half-siblings. Continuity of relationships with friends and relatives may also be taken into account.
The court will consider whether either parent has a history of drug or alcohol abuse and past or present physical abuse. A parent's criminal record may also play a role in the court's decision. The Florida child custody statute also allows the court to take into account any other relevant factors that may influence the custody decision.
Anyone contemplating a divorce may wish to consult a knowledgeable divorce attorney for advice on child custody issues. An experienced family lawyer can provide an overview of the particular situation and suggestions for various custody resolutions.
Source: FindLaw, "Florida Child Custody Laws," Oct. 9, 2017