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What factors matter the most for custody decisions in Florida?

Deciding to leave your spouse or receiving a summons for divorce can leave you feeling like many things in your future is uncertain. The relationship with your children shouldn't be one of them. For many parents facing divorce, worries about how the courts will handle custody and visitation is the biggest concern.

If you and your ex can't amicably agree on terms for your divorce, the courts will make some of these critical decisions on your behalf. Understanding of Florida family law and common practices for custody issues can help you prepare for the most likely scenarios with child custody. By looking at several key factors in your family, you can better predict how the courts may rule.

The courts really seek to do what's in the best interest of the children

In any divorce, the custody proceedings should focus on the children and not on the parents. In the eyes of the courts, barring certain serious situations, shared custody is the best answer. Both parents should have an ongoing relationship with the children and provide stable and nurturing environments for childhood and adolescent development.

Some parents may make the process about themselves, fighting for full custody as a means to penalize the other spouse. Others may go so far as to deny their ex visitation, even when granted by the courts. That kind of behavior can impact the outcome of child custody proceedings. If there is evidence of an attempt at alienation, it could influence how the courts allocate parental responsibilities. After all, they want a parent who can put the child's needs first.

Addiction and abuse issues can impact custody outcomes

While the courts typically favored shared custody and parental responsibilities, up to and including 50/50 parenting time, sometimes that arrangement won't be in the best interests of the children involved. In situations where one parent may do more harm than good to the children, the courts may assign full custody to the other parent or severely limit both parenting time and responsibilities.

If there is a documented history of abuse in your marriage, including emotional, financial or physical abuse, that could also influence child custody. Police or medical records, as well as recordings and electronic messages and posts can help substantiate claims of ongoing abuse. If the children witness this behavior or end up a target for it, that could impact their mental health and well-being.

Finally, parents who cannot care for their children, including those who struggle with addiction or who don't have a job or place to live, may not receive custody. Instead, they may receive visitation, which may require supervision.

Barring issues with negligence, addiction or abuse, the courts will typically favor shared custody arrangements.

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H. Stephen Hillebrand, Attorney at Law
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