How Will a Judge Decide my Custody Case?
Child custody is one of the most contested issues during a divorce or parentage case. Even parents who get along and can make most decisions as a team might find it difficult to determine how custody and parenting plans will be handled when the time comes. Not all child custody cases in Florida wind up in front of a judge, but with the ones that do, the primary consideration of the court will be the best interests of the child.
Examine the Past Behavior of the Parents
The judge assigned to your custody case will take a look at the past behavior of both parents. Why? The judge will need to examine this behavior in an effort to determine how you might act in the future. For example, if you have been sent to anger management in the past, it may be reasonable to conclude that you might need it in the future. This could prompt the judge to award majority parenting time to the other parent. Were you charged with domestic violence earlier in life? This charge could wind up coming back to haunt you, even if you have been living a clean life of late.
What Will Impinge on the Child?
The judge working the child custody case will look at what will impinge on the child. What will impinge on the child’s ability to develop academically, physically, morally, spiritually, emotionally and mentally? When it comes to determining the developmental needs of the child, the judge will consider the following items:
- The child’s current age
- The mental status of both parents
- The physical status of both parents
- The capacity of both parents to care for the child
- The relationship the child has with each parent
- The time each parent has available to be with the child
- Any presence of siblings
- The ability of each parent to provide a strong environment
- Factors related to religion
- Prior poor actions by either parent
- Drug or alcohol abuse by either parent
- The willingness of both parents to keep each other involved in the child’s life
- Relationships of each parent (family, friends, intimate and non-intimate)
Parental Relationship with the Child Prior to Divorce
If the custody proceeding you are involved in stems from a divorce, the judge will take a close look at the parental relationship with the child prior to the divorce. The judge will examine the relationship each parent had with the child. Who was the primary caretaker? Who took the child to the doctor? Who drove the child to and from school? Who handled after school activities? Was there tension between the child and one of the parents prior to the divorce? These and similar questions will be examined by the courts in determining how to decide the custody case.
The Preferences of the Child
How old is your child? If the court decides that the child is old enough and mature enough to offer meaningful input into the matter, the judge may ask the child what their preference is for primary custody. Depending on the family situation, this could either be a very easy decision for the child or a very difficult and stressful one. This process might be handled in private between the child and judge or the judge could ascertain the child’s preferences through a custody evaluator. Either way, if your child is old enough, he or she might wind up being one of the factors in deciding how the judge decides the custody case.
Florida Shared Parenting Plans
In recent years, Florida has enacted laws that encourage shared parenting. The courts have moved away from labels such as “primary custody”, “secondary custody”, and “visitation” in favor of more collaborative terms such as “parental responsibility” and “time-sharing.” The state prefers that parents discuss and decide together major decisions that will affect their child. As always, a parenting plan will be decided by the judge based on the best interests of the child, and shared parental responsibility is not appropriate in all cases. In 2018, Florida also enacted a new law that encourages parents to use a Standard Parenting Time Plans suggested by the court if they are unable to develop a workable plan on their own.
Schedule a Consultation with a Seasoned Child Custody Attorney
If you are having trouble coming to a custody and parenting plan with your former spouse or the other parent of your child, we are here to help. At Spencer Law Group, we work closely with our clients to secure a child custody arrangement that is in-keeping with their best interests, and the best interests of their children. For a personalized consultation, call our office today at 850-912-8080 or send us a message through our web contact form. We have offices in Pensacola, Sandestin, and Fort Walton Beach for your convenience.