Florida Child Custody Proceedings and How Children's Preferences May Affect the Outcome
In the state of Florida, a child's preference may affect which parent gets custody - in other words, where the child/children may live. If you are divorcing and have young children, either parents or the court determines custody. However, children who are a bit older may have a voice in determining this issue. Unlike many other states, there is no set age at which a child may choose which parent he/she wants to live with.
What are some of the factors that judges consider when determining child custody issues?
When parents who are separating or divorcing cannot come to an agreement regarding how to divide visitation or parenting time, the judge generally makes this decision based on the factors below, along with what is in the child's best interest.
- The mental/physical health of each parent
- The length of time a child/children have lived at a current residence
- Each parent's fitness in terms of morals
- How willing each parent is in terms of keeping the other parent informed of children's activities and interest, honoring a time-sharing schedule, encouraging strong relationship with other parent, and more
- How willing each parent is to place the child/children's needs over their own desires
- The child's history in terms of home, school, and community
- The ability of each parent to meet the developmental needs of the children
- The ability of each parent to provide children with a consistent or regular routine in terms of meals, bedtime, homework, etc.
- Whether there is evidence in either parent's home of drug use, violence, neglect, or abuse
- Depending on the child's intelligence and maturity, the child's preference as to which parent he/she will live with
When is a Child's Preference Considered by the Court?
In most states, a specific age (such as 14) is set when a child's preference of which parent he/she wants to live with is considered by the court. This is not the case in Florida, as there is no particular age set and the decision is left up to the judge's discretion. However, most judges will take into account a child's preference around the age of 12 or 13, along with other factors such as the child's intelligence, maturity, child's experiences with each parent and whether the child understands the decision being made.
Some children are more mature and capable of making important decisions than others at a younger age. While in most cases a 10 or 11 year old would be considered too young to make a decision on which parent to live with, there have been cases in which a judge felt an 11-year-old unusually articulate and intelligent.
In addition, the judge will take into account factors such as if a child may be choosing to live with a parent out of rebellion against the parent who currently has custody. The court must also determine if one parent may be trying to influence the opinion of the child. In the end, the judge will consider all factors mentioned above, along with the child's preference of which parent to live with although the decision is not typically based solely on the child's opinion.
If you have questions regarding child custody, contact the Orlando family law attorneys at Adams & Luka today. We understand you have many questions, and will work to provide you with the answers and legal guidance you need.