Divorced couple going through parenting plan

What is the Best Interest of the Child Standard?

It is often the case that divorcing parents cannot reach an agreement as to how parenting responsibilities and parenting time will be divided. After all, when it comes to the kids, emotions can run even higher than they are when addressing other aspects of divorce. Because of the impasse that parents often come to in developing a parenting plan, the court will often have to step in to resolve the matter for them. Should the court need to intervene in resolving this issue, the best interest of the child standard will guide the determination as to what plan regarding child custody best suits the circumstances.

What is the Best Interest of the Child Standard?

If parents are not in agreement regarding child custody disputes, the court steps in to resolve the dispute using the best interest of the child standard. Florida Statute 61.13(3) provides that, when a court is tasked with establishing or modifying parenting responsibilities, then the best interest of the child “shall be the primary consideration. Furthermore, the statute lists 20 factors that can be used to help the court determine what arrangement is, in fact, the best interest of the child. These factors look to the ability of each parent to fulfill parenting responsibilities and provide for the health and safety of the child as well as the ability to meet the emotional and developmental needs of the child, among other things.

The 20 factors listed in Florida Statute 61.13(3) include:

  • The demonstrated ability of each parent to honor the parenting time schedule and maintain a solid parent-child relationship
  • The projected division of the parenting responsibilities
  • The demonstrated ability of each parent to meet the needs of the child
  • How long the child has lived in a stable environment
  • Geographic considerations such as where each parent lives, where the child attends school, etc.
  • The established home, school, and community of the child
  • The moral fitness of each parent
  • The mental and physical fitness of each parent
  • The preference of the child (depending on the age and maturity of the child)
  • The ability of each parent to remain informed and involved in the child’s life (including knowledge of the children’s friends, preferences, and daily activities)
  • The ability and inclination of each parent to provide a consistent routine
  • The ability and inclination of each parent to effectively communicate with each other
  • Any evidence as to a history of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
  • Any evidence of either parent knowingly providing the court with false information
  • The contribution of each parent to performing parenting tasks
  • The ability and inclination of each parent to become and remain involved in the child’s school activities as well as extracurricular activities
  • The ability and inclination of each parent to maintain a substance-free environment for the child
  • The ability of each parent to shield the child from ongoing litigation
  • The ability and inclination of each parent to meet the developmental needs of the child
  • Any other factors that the court finds relevant to the parenting plan

Florida Family Law Attorneys

Are you and your co-parent struggling to agree on a parenting plan? At Bernal-Mora & Nickolaou we are here to help. Should the matter require court intervention, we will be your strongest advocate in demonstrating to the court what should be considered in developing a parenting plan. Contact us today.