What is the “best interest of a child” standard?

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The “best interest of the child” standard in a Florida Family Law Case generally refers to the deliberation that courts undertake when deciding what type of services, actions, and orders will best serve a child and for determining who is best suited to take care of a child. “Best interests” determinations are generally made by consideration a number of factors related to the circumstances surrounding the issue of the child. In addition, the child’s ultimate safety and well-being are is the most important concern.

When awarding child custody, Florida Statute 61.13 outlines several factors for the court to consider that affect the welfare and interests of a child, including but not limited to:

a. The parent who is more likely to allow the child frequent and continuing contact with the non-custodial parent.

b. The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parents and the child.

c. The capacity and disposition of the parents to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, and other material needs.

d. The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.

e. The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home.

f. The moral fitness of the parents.

g. The mental and physical health of the parents.

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

i. The reasonable preference of the child as to custody, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.

j. The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuous parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent.

k. Evidence that any party has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding a domestic violence proceeding.

l. Evidence of domestic violence or child abuse.
m. Any other fact not specifically expressed in these laws that the court considers to be relevant.

During any Florida custody conflict it is crucial that you not lose sight of how important it is to make decisions in the best interest of your child. The choices that you make now will affect your children’s development, as well as your relationship with them for years to come.