One of the most difficult things that divorcing or separating couples with children have to face is determining child custody, known here in Florida as time-sharing. It is often an emotional issue for kids and parents alike, but ultimately the most important consideration is what’s in the best interest of the child.
How is this determined, though?
Our courts consider 19 factors that help to evaluate the fitness of both parents, and what time-sharing schedule would be in the child’s best interest. The courts will also consider any other case-specific factors that may be relevant to the parenting and time-sharing plan.
If you are currently trying to arrange a time-sharing plan with your ex, it’s important to know what these factors are – and how both of you can act in your child’s best interest.
Factors that Influence Time-Sharing Decisions
Florida courts uphold that joint custody is normally in the child’s best interest. In determining parenting time, the courts will assess many factors to determine what specific schedule and division of time would be in the child’s best interest
The 19 stated factors are:
- The capacity of each parent to cooperate, facilitate parent-child relationships, and honor time-sharing schedules: Parents must work together as a team, and help to facilitate a relationship with the child, as well as the relationship between the child and her other parent. Parents must also honor time-sharing schedules.
- Anticipated division of parental responsibilities to each parent and to third parties: The courts will consider how parental responsibilities will be divided between parents, as determined by work schedules and other factors, and also which responsibilities will be delegated to third parties such as grandparents or daycares.
- Capacity of each parent to act in the best interest of the child: In the course a divorce or breakup, it is natural for both parents to be angry, and to sometimes act out of selfish interests. However, the courts strongly consider the parents’ capacity to put these differences aside and act in the child’s best interest.
- Length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and desirability of maintaining continuity: This concerns the child’s current environment, whether it is satisfactory, and whether it would be in the child’s best interest to continue to spend most of his or her time in this environment.
- Geographic variability of the parenting plan, and considerations for school-age children: The geographic location of each parent and the proximity of the parents to the school of school-age children will be considered.
- Moral fitness of each parent: Parents must be upstanding and able to set a good moral example for children.
- Mental and physical health of each parent: To take care of a child, parents must be in good mental and physical health. Any known health problems will be considered, and psychological evaluations may be requested.
- Home, school, and community record of the child: The child’s current behavior at home, at school, and in the community will be evaluated as a benchmark of her stability in her current environment.
- Reasonable preferences of the child: If the child is considered mature enough to be capable of evaluating the situation, his preferences will be taken into account.
- Knowledge and capacity of each parent to be informed of the child’s circumstances: It is important for parents to be engaged in the child’s life, and aware of important circumstances such as the child’s medical providers, teachers, friends, favorite things, and daily activities.
- Capacity of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child: Structure is important for a healthy environment. The parents’ ability to provide consistent discipline, daily schedules for homework, mealtime, and bedtime will be evaluated.
- Capacity of each parent to communicate with the other parent and adopt a unified front: The ability of the parents to cooperate with one another and effectively co-parent will be considered.
- Evidence of domestic abuse: Any evidence of domestic abuse, child abuse, or child neglect will be strongly considered, as this could compromise the child’s safety.
- Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court on the above: If either parent has knowingly concealed domestic abuse or provided false information to the court, this will be considered.
- Parenting tasks typically performed by each parent: The parenting tasks currently performed by each parent, and the capacity of each parent to perform these tasks will be considered.
- Capacity of each parent to be involved in the child’s school and extracurriculars: Children need parents to be actively engaged in their lives. The ability of each parent to be involved in the child’s education and extracurricular activities will be evaluated.
- Capacity of each parent to maintain an environment free from substance abuse: Substance abuse often leads to an unhealthy environment for children, so it will be evaluated. Drug tests may be required on a one-time or recurring basis.
- Capacity of each parent to protect the child from ongoing litigation: The child custody process is often traumatic for children. The ability of each parent to protect the child by not discussing ongoing litigation and refraining from speaking poorly of the other parent will be considered.
- Developmental stages and needs of the child and ability of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs: The child’s current developmental stage and the parents’ capacity to meet current developmental needs will be considered.
Talk to a Florida Family Attorney about Your Time-Sharing Goals
If you are currently in the process of arranging a time-sharing plan for your child or children, it is important to act in their best interest.
A Florida family lawyer can show you how to arrange a schedule that prioritizes the best interests of your child and communicates to the court the need for you to be as large a part of their life as possible if you are in a situation where your ex is fighting to minimize your time or you believe your ex could be a danger to your child.