Florida’s Best Interest of the Child, 61.13(3) Factors

portrait photo of three smiling girls
Photo by Di Lewis on Pexels.com

The Best Interest of the child in Florida has a statutory definition, which the Florida Family Courts are required to use to determine parental responsibility and timesharing between separating parents.   This means that when you are making decisions for your children and your decision is based on your opinion alone, it may not necessarily be the same as what a Court would do when the Court is requested to decide the same question.

Section 61.13(3), Florida Statutes.  The best interests of the child shall be made by evaluating all of the factors affecting the welfare and interests of the particular minor child and the circumstances of that family, including, but not limited to:
(a) The demonstrated 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.

(b) The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the
extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.

(c) 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.

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

(e) The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of
either parent with a child.

(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, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient
intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.

(j) The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends,
teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.

(k) The demonstrated 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.

(l) The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other
parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness
of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.

(m) 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. If the court accepts evidence of prior or pending actions regarding
domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect,
the court must specifically acknowledge in writing that such evidence was considered
when evaluating the best interests of the child.

(n) 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.

o) The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending
litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by
third parties.

(p) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved
in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.

(q) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment
for the child which is free from substance abuse.

(r) The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing
litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing
documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining
from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.

(s) The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and
disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.

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

***This article is not intended to replace legal advise from an attorney.  Every case and Family is different.  If you are facing the same or similar legal question, seek the advise of a martial and family law attorney in your area.

***