How Do Florida Courts Determine Child Custody?


Area of Law: 

Child custody laws in Florida aim to provide for a single parent to have physical custody of the child (primary care taker), while awarding the second parent generous visitation rights. Family courts in Florida lean towards providing both parents with lots of time to spend with their kids, provided the parents are able to provide for a healthy environment. This decision is made by the courts based on what they deem to be in the best interest of the child. In determining best interest of the child, the following factors will be evaluated in both parents:


- Each parent's willingness to encourage a healthy relationship between the child, and the other parent in the relationship. If one parent has a strongly negative disposition towards the other parent, this will be taken into consideration.

- Each parent's ability to respond to the needs of the child. This is in regards to their physical, emotional, and educational needs.

- The stability of each parent's living environment. Courts prefer to keep the child in a home where they'll be able to spend time with his/her friends, go to the same school, and be in a familiar environment to the child.

- The child's wishes if they're old enough. The court will ask the child which environment they prefer to reside in for the majority of the time. The older the child is, the more weight will be given to their preference.

- Any history of child neglect, domestic violence, or sexual violence in the parent's past.


What if that parent plans to relocate?

Florida courts prefer to give custody to the parent staying in the same location, but based on other factors this isn't always feasible. If the parent that is awarded custody of the child plans to relocate there is an additional requirement of both parents. Both parents must sign a written agreement which:


- Expresses agreement to the new location

- Explains the time sharing schedule of the non-relocating parent

- Describes transportation arrangements of the child from the relocating parent to the non-relocating parent


The relocating parent must serve the non-relocating parent with this signed petition as soon as feasibly possible. This petition must include:


- The above listed points

- Address, telephone number, and description of the new residence

- Date of anticipated move

- Reason for the relocation


What if a parent's ability to care for the child changes in the future?

To keep from disrupting the child's well being, a child custody order in Florida won't be modified unless a parent can provide substantial evidence that a parent is unable to care for the child any longer. Any change that's made must ultimately serve the child's best interests.


Child custody, and divorce law in Florida are very thorough, and both parents will need a thorough understanding of the process to ensure their legal rights, and needs are beign served properly. Because of this, we recommend consulting a local divorce lawyer to help you with the child custody process. To find a lawyer near you, click here.


RJasondeGroot's picture

This post contains

This post contains information which is highly inaccurate, in my opinion.