The pit-of-the-stomach worry that comes with the fear of losing your children in a child custody case is not an easy one to endure. However, many Florida parents -- either those who are going through a divorce or those who have never married -- have concerns about their future ability to care for and live with their children.
Whether you're a mother or father, circumstances could arise that threaten your parental rights. In some cases, parents get in trouble with the law, and a family law court may try to strip the parent of physical and legal custody. In other cases, one parent might challenge another parent's custody rights -- perhaps by claiming that the parent is not actually the biological mother or father, or by challenging the person's fitness to be a parent.
What Florida courts consider when deciding a custody case
If your parental rights are in jeopardy, a Florida court will be able to take into consideration all facts that could be relevant to its decision in your case. However, the court will place the greatest weight on factors that may affect your child's well-being, health and safety.
Commonly considered factors in child custody cases include but are not limited to:
-- Which parent has the best capacity to tend to the child's emotional, physical, educational, developmental and other special needs.
-- Which parent is best able to keep a stable, loving, nurturing and consistent relationship with the child.
-- Which parent has the best capacity to encourage continued and frequent contact between the other parent and the child.
-- Whether either parent has a history of substance abuse, physical abuse or criminal activity.
Of course, a host of facts may fall within the above three categories. Florida courts might also bring into consideration the child's own wishes if he or she is mature enough to be brought into the discussion. Relationships with siblings and other members of the household and family life may also play an important role in a court's child custody determination.
Assert your parental rights in Florida court
Fortunately for single Florida parents, in the vast majority of cases, a Florida court will wish to protect a child's relationship with both of his or her parents. As such, it would be extremely rare that you will be denied or discouraged access to your child.
You could, however, be at risk of losing some of the precious time you have come to enjoy with your child depending on how the court views your family law case. As such, if you're in the midst of a child custody battle, you may want to discuss your case with a competent family law attorney.