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Establishing child custody in Florida

In Florida child custody determinations, the court has discretion to act as it deems is in the child's best interests. To guide the court's decision is a multi-factor test with several areas for the judge to consider before setting a custody arrangement. Many of the factors examine the child's school and home history. Any incidents of domestic violence are reviewed. The level of involvement each parent has in the child's life is evaluated . As much as possible, and when favorable for the child, the court seeks to provide continuity in the child's life.

Since the court seeks to provide a safe home for the child, several issues are considered that relate to parental stability and ability in both tangible and abstract areas. The existing ties, love and affection between the child and the parent are assessed, as is the parent's ability to meet the child's developmental needs. The judge reviews the parents' mental, physical and moral status and history. Permanence of the proposed home, the parent's ability to provide financially and the planned division of parental responsibilities are anticipated when establishing child custody.

Finally, the court assesses each parent's probable level of cooperation in future parenting. Specifically, factors for review are whether the parent will encourage and facilitate contact with the other parent, whether the parent will show flexibility by reasonably accommodating any changes to be made, and whether the parent will honor the custody arrangement for time-sharing of the child.

Since the court ultimately is acting in the child's best interests, if granting custody to either parent would be harmful either emotionally or physically, then the court has the authority to appoint guardianship custody to someone else, such as a grandparent.

Source: Findlaw, "Primary Child Custody Factors in Florida", September 07, 2014

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