Custody: What Does The Law Consider?

Florida Statute § 61.13 lists the factors that the law will consider when developing a child custody, also known as time-sharing, schedule. One major factor is whether you will encourage a close and continuing relationship between the children and the other parent. The law considers your histories and personalities. Section 61.13 examines whether you will be reasonable when changes are required. The law also considers your ability to keep each other informed regarding important matters regarding the children. Florida law frowns upon parents who disparage the other in front of the children or bring the children into their disputes.

Parental Responsibility and Child Custody

Section 61.13 also discusses parental responsibilities and whether third parties will have decision-making authority. For example, if you work eighty hours a week, it may not be realistic for you to have custody the majority of the time. Another consideration is whether you will be able to participate in the children’s school and extracurricular activities.

Another factor is whether you have demonstrated the capacity and disposition to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the children as opposed to your own needs or desires.

It is important to maintain stability as much as possible for the children.  Accordingly, the law considers the length of time the children have lived in a stable, satisfactory environment. Often times, if a temporary schedule is going well, the law suggests that it may be best to keep that custody schedule in place, especially if the child is tied to that home, school, and community.

Children generally should not spend hours each week traveling from one home to the other. Therefore, the law considers the geographic viability of the parenting plan.

Section 61.13 considers your moral fitness, mental health, and physical heath.

Children’s Preference

Depending on the age of the children, the law considers their preferences. However, judges and attorneys try to avoid placing children in the middle of disputes. Further, the child’s preference is only a factor, and not likely the final say.  The law does not allow children to totally determine with whom they are staying until they become 18 years old.

The statute also considers your abilities to deal with the developmental stages of the children.

The law considers your knowledge, capacity, and disposition to be informed about the children’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.

Another important factor is your capacity to provide a consistent routine for the children.  The law looks at discipline and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.

The law considers evidence of substance abuse, domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.  It also considers evidence that your have knowingly provided false information regarding these matters.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

When determining child custody, the law considers many factors. Of course, by participating in alternative dispute resolution such as Collaborative Family Law or Mediation rather than litigation, you keep these important decisions in your own hands.

Adam B. Cordover specializes in out-of-court dispute resolution.  He is an experienced collaborative practitioner, and he trains attorneys, mental health professionals, financial professionals, and mediators how to offer collaborative services.  Adam is co-editor with Forrest S. Mosten of an upcoming American Bar Association book on collaborative practice.