Child Custody Law in Florida: 20 Things You Need to Know


Cases involving parents as opposing parties over the custody of their children present unique issues and difficulties to overcome for everyone involved. Emotions often run high, especially if the custody case is being worked out in the context of a divorce. However, Florida child custody law is set up to encourage parents to work together to design a parenting plan that will enable both parents to share the responsibility of raising their children and to contribute to the care, control, and maintenance of their minor children.

Image from the US State Department's Compliance Report on the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction
Child custody cases consider many factors, including the moral fitness of the parent and the best interests of a child relative to his or her stage of development.

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)

The law that applies to every child custody proceeding in Florida is the UCCJEA, which says that custody proceedings regarding any minor child will be held in that child’s state of residence. The state of residence is defined as the state in which the child has lived for the last six months in a row, or since they were born if the child is younger than six months. Once it is determined that Florida is the home state of the minor, a court in Florida has jurisdiction to hear the case.

Standard Used in Child Custody Cases

Courts hearing a child custody case will decide the case, including custody, support, and visitation, according to “the best interests of the child” standard. The standard allows courts to determine each case individually, with some guidance. According to Florida Law, it is in the best interest of the child to have frequent and continuous contact with both parents and to support both parents in sharing the rights, responsibilities, and joys of child rearing.

Child custody cases involve determining two aspects of child rearing: parental responsibility and time sharing. Parental responsibility refers to making decisions that affect the minor child’s life and well-being. Time sharing refers to where and with whom the child will spend his or her time.

Factors to Consider: the Parenting Plan

There are numerous factors for a Florida Court to consider in making a determination in a custody case according to what is in a child’s best interest. These factors include:

1. Each parent’s ability to support a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to abide by a time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are needed.

2. Anticipated division of parental responsibilities, including responsibilities which may be delegated to third parties.

3. The ability of each parent to consider and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to their own.

4. The length of time the child has lived in a stable environment and maintaining that continuity.

5. The geographic reasonableness of the parenting plan.

6. The moral fitness of the parents.

7. The mental and physical health of the parents.

8. The home, school, and community record of the child.

9. The reasonable preference of the child, if appropriate.

10. The demonstrated knowledge, ability, and disposition of each parent to be informed of matters regarding the minor child.

11. The ability of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child.

12. The ability of each parent to communicate and keep the other informed of matters regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.

13. Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought.

14. Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.

15. The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before and during the pending litigation, including responsibilities were by third parties.

16. The ability of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.

17. The ability of each parent to maintain an environment for the child that is free from substance abuse.

18. The ability of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.

19. The developmental stages and needs of the child and the ability of each parent to meet such needs.

20. Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.

It is important to note that these factors represent a wide assortment of issues for court to consider in determining custody cases. In order to get a better understanding of what to expect from a court in a particular case, it is important to consult with an experienced family law attorney.

Florida Child Custody Attorney

The attorneys at Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, P.A. have successfully experience representing clients in child custody cases. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. We serve clients in Dade, Broward, and Monroe counties.