Florida courts make child custody decisions based upon their determination of what’s in the best interest of the child. While the phrase “the best interest of the child” sounds somewhat vague, it actually refers to a group of factors that are used to determine what would be best for the child in any given child custody situation.
The court will consider the circumstances of both the child and the parent or caregiver, but the child’s safety and well-being are always the primary consideration when reviewing factors related to the child’s best interest. In Florida, specific factors are listed out by statute that the courts should look to when determining what is in the child’s best interest.
Among the factors to be considered under Florida law are: the capacity of the caregiver to maintain a strong relationship with the child and to comply with court-ordered arrangements; the child’s relationships and emotional ties to parents, siblings, other family and household members and caregivers; the ability of the parent to provide a safe home environment that satisfactorily provides for the child’s medical, clothing and food needs; and the physical and mental needs of the child. Some of the mental qualities the court is instructed to review are the ability to provide a consistent environment for the child, the caregiver’s adaptability when things must change. The court must also review any accusations of abuse or neglect, and it will consider whether the caregiver has appeared honest and forthcoming in his or her dealings with the court. The court is instructed to also consider all other relevant factors that would be important to determining the best interests of the child.
Additionally, in Florida, the child’s wishes are considered in circumstances when the court determines that the child is sufficiently mature to make such decisions.
Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway, “Determining the Best Interests of the Child,” accessed Aug. 5, 2014