Parenting plans and the 'best interests of the child'

Whether a parenting plan is negotiated between the parents or whether it is established by the court, the standard used in Florida is the "best interests of the child." There are a number of factors that will go into determining what the child's best interests are.

Some factors include whether the parents are willing and able to encourage a close and ongoing relationship between the child and each parent, whether the parents will adhere to the child custody and visitation schedule, and whether the parents will act reasonably if modifications to the time-sharing schedule are needed. Another factor is how parental responsibilities will be divided between the parents, which includes whether certain responsibilities will be fulfilled by a third party, such as child care.

The court will also consider whether the parents are willing and able to determine the needs of the child and act upon them, rather than acting upon their own desires. How long the child has stayed in a stable and safe environment will also be considered, as will whether it is desirable to continue this practice. Also, the geographic viability of the child custody and visitation schedule will be considered, especially with regards school-age children and the time it will take to transfer the child between parents when it is their turn for parenting time.

Other factors include each parent's moral fitness, physical health and mental health. The child's preference will be considered if it is reasonable. Each parent's knowledge, ability and willingness to be informed of certain aspects of the child's life, such as who the child's friends are, who the child's teachers and doctors are, what the child does on a day-to-day basis and what the child's favorite things are.

Each parent's ability and willingness to provide the child with a stable routine, will be considered. Another factor is each parent's ability to maintain communication with their ex with regards to the child's activities and any issues involving the child, so that the parents can be in agreement with regards to these issues.

Finally, the child's developmental needs, and each parent's ability and willingness to meet these needs will be considered.

This list is not all-exhaustive; there are other factors that will be considered as well. In the end, what is most important is that any parenting plan entered into meets the child's best interests. Doing so will go a long way into ensuring the child has a home life in which he or she is able to grow and thrive.

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