Child custody disputes during a divorce are often difficult to navigate. In addition to dealing with the laws that guide these matters the parents must also deal with the emotional toll that comes with raising children. It is natural to have concerns about how and who makes these decisions. This piece will delve into the basics, as they apply in Florida.
It is important to point out that this post focuses on Florida laws. One of the big questions parents often have: How do courts make these decisions? The answer: the courts use state law to decide child custody matters.
With that in mind, we can move on to the next question, who makes this decision. There are basically two options.
#1: The parents develop a parenting plan
Florida state law allows parents to put together a parenting plan. This plan outlines who will take responsibility for the daily tasks associated with raising the children, decisions about health care, schooling, and other activities. It should also explain how much time each parent will spend with the child and how the parents will communicate with the child. The state expects both parents to have continuing and frequent contact with the child unless there are extenuating circumstances like concerns of abuse.
The court will generally approve the proposed plan if it is in the best interest of the child.
#2: The court develops the parenting plan
If the parents cannot agree, the court will likely develop the plan. As noted above, the courts use a legal standard referred to as the best interest of the child when reviewing a proposed plan. They will use this same standard to guide the development of a plan.
The best interest of the child standard includes a review of the moral fitness as well as the mental and physical fitness of each parent. The court may also consider the child’s preferences depending on the child’s intelligence and understanding of the situation.