The law says that the minor child should have frequent and continuing contact with both
parents after the parents divorce or separate and that both parents are encouraged to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys of bringing up the child. When litigating these cases, the most common disagreement arises over the parenting plan and time sharing schedule and when the parties can’t agree, the court will have to decide for them.
The parenting plan which includes as time-sharing schedule is what governs each parent’s relationship with the child. When the court is determining a parenting plan and parental responsibility, the primary consideration for the court is what is in the best interest of the minor child. There is no presumption for or against the father or the mother. Once the parenting plan is adopted by the court, it can not be changed or modified without a substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances and a determination by the court that the change is in the child’s best interest.
According to Florida Statute Chapter 61.13 the factors the court will use in determining what is in the best interest of the child are as follows:
- The capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
- The extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
- The geographic viability of the parenting plan.
- The moral fitness of the parents.
- The mental and physical health of the parents.
- The home, school, and community of record of the child.
- The reasonable preference of the child, if the child is found able to express a preference.
- The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, such as teachers, medical care providers, and daily activities.
- The capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
- Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
- Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding a prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
- The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before litigation began and during litigation.
- Participation and involvement in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
- Keeping the child’s environment free from substance abuse.
- The parent’s ability to protect the child from litigation (for example not discussing the case with the child) and refraining from disparaging the other parent in front of the child.
- The developmental stages and needs of the child and the capacity of each parent to meet those needs.
- Any other factor relevant to determining a specific parenting plan and time sharing schedule.