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What Does A Judge Look For When Determining A Parenting Plan?

In a previous post, it was discussed general rules for crafting a parenting plan after divorce. Let’s look at how a Judge crafts a parenting plan. A Judge looks at Florida law which sets out the factors to consider to determine a child’s best interest. The factors in Florida Statute 61.13(3)(a-e) were discussed in detail.

In this post, the next few factors, more specifically Florida Statute 61.13 (f-l), are listed below and discussed:

(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.

Subsection (f) means the Court wants to hear about the any negative behavior by either parent that directly impacts the minor child. Some examples might be drug abuse or other illegal behavior, and arrests. Exposing the child to inappropriate behavior will be considered by a Judge under with this factor.

Subsection (g) is exactly what you would imagine – a Judge wants to know about the mental health of the parents and the physical health of the parents. A long history of mental health issues that directly affects the minor child is important for a Judge to know about and consider. The physical health of the parent is also important; a Judge wants to know which parent is better physically able to take care of the children.

Subsection (h) means the Court wants to know how the child is doing in school, what activities the child is involved in, and how the child functions at home. A Judge will review consider if the child has had discipline issues at school or has been in trouble with law enforcement.

With Subsection (i), the Court does not want a young child to be asked which parent he or she wants to live with if the child is not emotionally developed enough to do so. There is no “magic age” in Florida at which a child gets to decide which parent he or she will spend wants to live with; this is decided on a case-by-case basis and Judges prefer to keep children of all ages, even older teenagers, out of the courtroom unless absolutely necessary.

Have A Specific Question About A Florida Parenting Plan?

When reviewing Subsection (j), a Judge wants to hear about each parent’s involvement with the child. Does the parent know the child’s doctor and attend medical appointments? Does the parent know who the child’s friends are? Does the parent know who the child’s teachers are? Is the parent involved in the child’s extracurricular activities? If a parent does not know those types of things, chances are he or she is not very involved in the child’s life.

Section (k) gives a parent the opportunity to tell the Judge what the child’s routine is while the child is with that parent. What is the child’s bedtime? How does the parent ensure that homework is done? When is dinner time? A parent should be able to describe a typical day in the life of the child to the Judge. A parent should also be able to explain their style of discipline for the child.

Section (l) focuses on which parent is best at working with the other parent the best interest of the child. It is important to keep the other parent informed of appointments and issues with the child. When the child misbehaves, are both parents supportive of each other and unified? Or does one parent try to be the “fun” parent, undermining the other parent’s discipline efforts? The Court wants to see the parents trying to cooperate with each other and co-parenting.

Please look for an analysis of the final best interest factors to come. You can also contact our Jacksonville divorce attorney office at: 904.306.9926 to request a consultation.

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