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Best interests of the child: What does it mean?

If you are going through a child custody matter in Florida, it’s likely you’ve heard the term “best interests of the child” many times. In Florida, the courts will determine or approve a parenting time plan that is in the best interests of the child or children involved. But isn’t “best interests” a bit subjective?

As a mother, you probably have your own idea of what is in the best interests of your own child or children – and rightfully so. However, it’s possible that your ex disagrees. So, what happens then?

How Florida defines the best interests of the child

Under Florida statutes, the best interests of the child is well-defined. In fact, there are 20 factors the courts consider when making sure a time-sharing plan is favorable for the child. Some of the things the court looks for when approving or making a custody plan are:

  • Each parent’s physical and mental health
  • Each parent’s capacity to encourage a continued relationship between the child and their other parent, including abiding by the time-sharing plan
  • How you and your ex plan to divide parental responsibilities
  • The child’s preference, if they are able to sufficiently express it
  • Any history or evidence of abuse or violence from either parent
  • Each parent’s knowledge of the child’s circumstances, including schedule, health care providers, teachers, friends and favorite things
  • Whether a parent lied to the court
  • Each parent’s ability and willingness to protect the child from the ongoing litigation of their divorce
  • Each parent’s ability to meet the developmental needs of the child
  • Each parent’s willingness and capacity to participate in the child’s day-to-day life, including school and other activities

While these are only some of the factors considered, you can probably sense a theme. To put it simply, the court is attempting to determine how supportive each parent will be of the child’s needs, whether they are physical, emotional or otherwise.

For parents, child custody can be one of the most worrisome aspects of divorce. As a mother, the thought of not being able to see your child every day can be painful. It is important to know, however, that Florida courts generally believe it to be beneficial for the child to have a continued relationship with both parents. Furthermore, if you and your ex are able to reach an agreement on your own – or with the help of your attorneys – the courts are likely to approve it as long as it is in the best interests of your child.

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