The best interests of the child.
That is the fundamental force and underpinning motivation — the bedrock standard — that drives child custody laws in every American state, including Florida.
And although the goal is uniformly the same, the permutations and details differ among the states. Florida, for example, has a comparatively long list of enumerated factors that, collectively, help to define the term “best interests.” They include things such as the following: parental capacity and commitment to honor a time-sharing arrangement; the viability of the parenting plan, with due attention given to geographical factors; any evidence of violence; parental involvement in a child’s school and extracurricular affairs; and emotional ties of a child to other siblings and/or relatives.
An interesting article from the ABA Journal draws attention to one other central consideration in this process: What does the child want? The article is especially focused on child custody in New Jersey, but the inquiry is universally relevant.
One young woman, for example, recalls how she waited outside a courtroom at age 13 with her views carefully considered and, additionally, set forth in a letter. She wanted to see the judge and explain why she didn’t want her drug-addicted mother to have custody over her.
Her input was never solicited and she says that she “felt really devastated.”
The bottom line is that child custody can be a sensitive and complex matter, with multiple issues under consideration and scrutinized carefully by a court. In Florida, a focused and empathetic family law attorney with a deep well of experience in child custody matters can respond to questions and concerns and help a family focus on the critically important matter of a child’s best interests.
Related Resource: ABA Journal, “Courts in New Jersey to Try Harder to Include Children in Custody Hearings” July 6, 2011