The legal standard for determining child custody varies from state to state. In the state of Florida, there are eleven considerations to be used when considering parental responsibility and primary residence. The Court must consider all of the factors that affect the best interests of the child, including, but not limited to the parent who is more likely to allow the child frequent and continuing contact with the nonresidential parent; the love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parent and the child; the capacity and disposition of the parents to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, and other material needs; the length of time that the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and desirability of maintaining continuity; the permanence, as a family unit, of the existing and proposed custodial homes; the moral fitness of the parents; the mental and physical health of the parents; the home, school, and community record of the child; the reasonable preference of the child, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding and experience to express a preference; the willingness and ability of each parent to encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent; and any other factors that may be relevant.

The typical child custody evaluation involves interviews and psychological testing with both parents and the child(ren). In addition, each parent is observed interacting with the child(ren). The psychologist attempts to gather information from any mental health professionals currently involved with the family and from the child's medical doctor. In the conclusions section of the report, the psychologist blends the information gathered during the evaluation with information obtained from the developmental literature in psychology. The recommendations are formulated through the application of the clinical findings to the legal standards for parental responsibility and parental residence.

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© 2014 Dr. Charles B. Winick, Psy.D.