The interpretation of the best interests of the child

The laws of the state of Florida contain several relevant provisions to help the court make determinations as to what the best interests of the child may be in a custody or placement decision. The legislature has listed several factors that it feels most strongly influence the child's health, safety and development.

For example, the ability of the parents to provide the medical, financial and other physical needs should be considered, as should be their inclination to do so. The court will ascertain that the child has been properly fed, clothed and supported in the past as they attempt to decide what to do in the future.

The court is also aware that an older child is likely to remain in foster care longer than a younger child, especially if the child has any behavioral or medical issues, and that will be a factor when making their decision. The court will consider that relationships with siblings and other close relatives may be essential to the child's emotional well-being, and the depth of connection that the child has to their current caretakers is also seen as important. For this and other reasons the continuity of home and living circumstances will be preserved to the greatest degree possible. If the child is responsible enough to be able to express a preference, then the court will also give their opinion considerable weight.

Any individual who finds themselves involved in a child custody dispute may benefit from the advice and counsel of a lawyer. The lawyer may be able to assist them in explaining to the court what the needs and desires of the child may be. The lawyer may also be able to help the court determine how the best interests of the child may be affected by any proposed changes to custody arrangements.

Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway, "Determining the Best Interests of the Child", December 10, 2014

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