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Determining Child Custody in a Florida Divorce


In Florida, custody refers to legal decision-making power over the child. A parent who has legal custody of a child has the power to make decisions concerning the child’s schooling, health care, religious upbringing, and more. While Florida courts used to favor mothers in custody matters, that is no longer the case. Today, the courts presume that both parents should take an active role in their child’s life and have the right to make decisions on their behalf. For that reason, the courts will generally award shared custody to both parents. Visitation, known as time-sharing in Florida, is another matter entirely.

As a parent going through a divorce, you may wonder how the Florida courts come to decisions when it comes to assigning custody of a child. In this article, the Tampa, FL divorce attorneys at Westchase Law, P.A. will discuss factors that the court considers when awarding custody in Florida.

How do Florida courts reach decisions concerning custody? 

Florida courts will apply the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Under the current law, Florida judges will consider the facts of a particular case giving equal consideration to both the father and the mother. In most cases, the court will award shared custody of the child. This means that parental responsibility is shared equally by both parents regardless of how often the child spends with one or the other parent. Judges have the discretion to diverge from a presumption of shared custody if the judge believes that awarding shared custody would be harmful to the child. However, the judge will need a compelling reason to do so.

The best interests of the child standard 

When determining matters related to child custody, the Florida courts will employ “the best interests of the child standard” to determine if one parent should be denied custody. If a judge believes that awarding one parent sole custody is in the best interests of the child, then that is what they’ll do. The other parent may still have visitation rights to the child. When deciding the matter, a Florida judge can consider any of the following:

  • Will the parent with whom the child spends most of their time facilitate ongoing contact with the nonresidential parent?
  • Will the custodial parent involve the child in the parents’ ongoing legal drama?
  • Does the child show overt signs of love and affection to both parents?
  • Can the parent provide basic necessities to the child, including food, clothing, and medical care?
  • Can the parent satisfy the developmental needs of the child?
  • How long has the child been in their current environment and should the child be moved from that environment?
  • Can each parent maintain a home environment that is free of substance abuse?
  • Is the custodial residence fit for child-rearing?
  • Are the parents morally fit to provide guidance to the child?
  • Are the parents mentally and physically healthy enough to supervise the child?
  • Does the child have a preference when it comes to one or the other parent? (Only in cases where the judge believes the child is capable of making an informed decision)
  • Is there any evidence of abuse or neglect of the child?
  • Is there any evidence of domestic violence against the other parent?

Talk to a Tampa, FL Child Custody Lawyer Today 

Westchase Law, P.A. represents the rights of parents during divorce. We can help you argue complex custody issues such as when the other parent is unfit to provide guidance to your child. Call our Tampa family lawyers today to schedule an appointment, and we can begin addressing your concerns right away.

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