Fathers in the Pensacola area going through a divorce may be concerned that courts will automatically presume that the child’s mother is best suited to care for the child and that she will automatically be awarded custody in a divorce.

However, under Florida law, neither the mother nor the father will be presumed to be the best parent to have custody of their child. Instead, courts will make parental responsibility and time-sharing decisions based on the child’s best interests.

What factors will courts consider when making child custody decisions?

There are a variety of factors that courts will consider when determining the child’s best interests. Keep in mind that this list is not all-exhaustive, and those who need more information on these factors are encouraged to seek professional advice on the matter.

Factors relating to parental care and cooperation

Courts may consider each parent’s ability and willingness to have a close and continuing relationship with the child, to honor the time-sharing order and to be reasonable if modifications need to be made. The parents’ ability to communicate effectively regarding the child’s care may also be considered. Each parent’s willingness to be involved in the child’s education and activities may be considered as well.

Also, each parent’s ability and willingness to act upon the child’s needs rather than their own will be considered. Courts may also consider how long the child has resided in a stable, satisfactory home. The child’s school and community record may also be considered.

The child’s developmental stage and needs, and the ability and willingness of each parent to meet these needs may be considered as well.

Factors related to health and safety

In addition, the projected division of parental responsibilities following the divorce, including whether parental responsibilities will be delegated to someone other than the mother or father will be considered, as will each parent’s moral fitness and health. Whether domestic violence or substance abuse is an issue will also be considered.

Factors related to geography

Another factor the courts may consider is whether a parenting plan is geographically viable, particularly with regards to the needs of school-age children who may be travelling between households per the terms of the parenting plan.

The child’s wishes

If the child has a preference, and is of sufficient ability to express a preference, this preference may be considered.

Child custody decisions can be complex

As this shows, there are many factors that courts will consider when determining the best interests of the child. Ultimately, the child’s needs should receive priority, and parents should try to work together post-divorce to meet these needs. Ongoing disparagement and resentment can harm a child, so it is important to honor the parenting plan approved by the court.