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Florida’s best interest standard in child custody disputes

There is a lot to deal with when going through a divorce. In addition to the emotions tied up in the marriage dissolution process, you’ll have to make tough decisions that can set the stage for your financial well-being moving forward. Yet, the importance of those matters may pale in comparison to your relationship with your child, and the truth of the matter is that divorce can threaten to negatively impact that relationship when your child’s other parent seeks to limit your access to the child. This could occur by the other parent seeking sole physical custody or minimizing your visitation as a noncustodial parent.

Hopefully, you will be able to negotiate a child custody arrangement that is fair and preserves your relationship with your child. In the event that you cannot come to an agreement with the child’s other parent, a judge will render a decision based on what he or she deems is in the child’s best interests. Therefore, if you want to make sure your relationship with your child is protected as fully as possible, you need to be prepared to argue why your proposed custody arrangement furthers the child’s best interests.

So what does the court consider when assessing the child’s best interests? A number of factors. The child’s relationship with each parent and each parent’s ability to facilitate a close relationship will be taken into consideration, as will each parent’s ability to put the child’s needs first. Each parent’s moral fitness, physical and mental health, financial stability, history of abuse, history of drug use, and even the child’s preferences can all be crucial to a court’s determination.

These are just a few of the factors that the court will consider. In fact, Florida law contains a catch-all provision that essentially allows the court to assess any information that it deems relevant to a child custody determination. This leaves a lot of room for argument in these matters. As a result, if you are expecting a contested child custody or visitation dispute, you need to be prepared to not only present evidence to support your position, but also to defend yourself against what could be a plethora of allegations of parental unfitness.

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