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How do the courts determine the best interests of a child?

Like in many other states, Florida courts base custody decisions regarding divorcing families using the standard of "best interests of the child." However, the way a judge defines this standard may vary by jurisdiction.

In Florida, courts can consider a variety of factors when determining what is in the child's best interests. The court will look at all factors that affect the child's welfare and the family's circumstances. This includes considering the developmental stage of the child and the parenting ability of each former spouse. The court can consider any history of substance abuse and the demonstrated ability of the parents to provide a substance-abuse free home environment. Judges will also consider serious allegations against either parent, including any reports of domestic violence, child abuse, child abandonment, neglect or sexual abuse. However, the court can consider any false reports of this nature as well.

In addition, Florida courts are concerned with the relationship between the exes as co-parents and will consider whether the parents will facilitate and encourage a healthy relationship. The court will consider whether the parents will likely honor the parenting agreement that they develop. A judge may also consider if each parent can protect the child from the bitterness of ongoing litigation. This is often exhibited by not discussing the case with the child and by not sharing information submitted as evidence in the case. The child's custody preference can be considered, but this will not always determine the outcome.

It's important to note that every child custody case is unique. In order to receive helpful legal advice, it may be necessary to discuss the specific circumstances of the case with a family law attorney.

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