Determining the “Best Interests” of a Child in Florida Family Law Matters

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Florida courts make a plethora of decisions regarding children. These decisions range from timesharing and decision making, safety and permanency planning, and proceedings for termination of parental rights. Whenever courts make such decisions, it must consider whether its decision would be in the “best interests” of the child. Most States have a statute requiring that the child’s best interests be considered whenever certain types of decisions regarding a child’s custody, placement or other critical issues are made. Although there is no specific Florida statutory definition of “best interests of a child,” the concept typically refers to the deliberation that courts undertake when deciding what type of services, actions and orders will best serve a child as well as who is best suited to take care of a child.

During a Jacksonville Florida child custody proceeding, the court will consider a number of factors to determine the “best interest” of a child. These factors may include the love, affection, and other emotional ties between the parents and the child; the mental health, physical health and morality of the parents; and most importantly, which parent is more likely to encourage contact between the child and the other parent. For a complete list of the best interests factors, see Florida Statute 61.13.