There are a lot of good reasons for a Florida couple who are taking the steps necessary to dissolve their marriage to come to an agreement on specific terms such as property division and child custody and support. This may seem counter-intuitive since the inability to agree is an often-cited cause for divorce, but a failure to do so can be time-consuming, stressful and financially costly. Even more important, individuals who actively participate in the resolution of the legal matters in their divorce report greater satisfaction with the results than those who cannot agree and consequently leave it to the court to decide.

If child custody is left to the court, family law experts can explain that the judge will be guided by the basic principle of doing that which is in the best interests of the child but in doing so will look to more specific guidelines established by state law. The court will establish physical custody, determining where the child will live, and legal custody, providing who will decide matters of schooling, religious preference and issues of health. Each type of custody will be either sole or joint. Joint custody also is referred to as shared parental responsibility.

The court weighs many factors, most of which are relevant to establishing the parent who performs the majority of tasks that meet the daily needs of the child. No one factor is necessarily more important than another, and the court has broad discretion in seeking information it requires to make its decision. Ultimately, the totality of the circumstances will lead the court to its conclusion and become the final custody order.

Important decisions and legal rights regarding child custody are determined every day in family court. An experienced family law attorney could offer guidance throughout the divorce process.