How well do you know your child? As a parent, you may feel that no one knows your child better than you do. As it happens, how well you know your child is one of the twenty “best interests” factors that Florida courts consider when determining custody (also known as parental responsibility and time-sharing). But what does it mean to know your child?
Florida Statutes Section 61.13(3)(j) refers to “(t)he demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.”
That doesn’t mean that the judge in your divorce or custody case is going to quiz you and your child’s other parent on your child’s favorite snack or TV character, and award custody to the parent who scores higher. But how well you know your child’s preferences and situation does point to how engaged you are with them, and how involved you are in their care.
HOW INVOLVED ARE YOU WITH YOUR CHILD?
Like the other “best interests” factors, this one is considered as part of the larger picture. If you are deeply involved in your children’s care, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge of their lives and a disposition to be informed about the things that are important to them. For instance, if you have been the primary caregiver, you can probably answer the following questions easily:
- Who is your child’s pediatrician?
- What is the name of your child’s teacher?
- Who is your child’s best friend?
- When and where was your child’s last school field trip?
- What is your child’s bedtime routine?
- What extracurricular activities is your child involved in?
- What is your child’s favorite toy?
Being able to readily rattle off the answers to these questions suggests that you provide a good part of your child’s care and that you pay attention to what is going on in their life. If you can’t answer these questions, consider this: somebody can, and it is probably the other parent. Think about what that says about your respective roles with regard to your children, and what conclusions a judge might reach based on your knowledge of your child’s life.
CAPACITY AND DISPOSITION TO BE INFORMED OF THE CHILD’S CIRCUMSTANCES
There is a simple way to gain the knowledge that will help a court evaluate you favorably on this factor: spend time with your child. Remember, it is not the knowledge itself that is important; it is what knowing these facts represent. If you care about your child and are responsible for their day-to-day care, knowledge of their preferences and circumstances will come naturally to you.
Like any relationship, your relationship with your child requires effort on your part. Early in your child’s life, that effort involves custodial care: changing diapers, feeding them, getting up with them when they wake in the night. While that type of care may be physically draining, it is at least straightforward.
When your children get a little older, their lives become increasingly separate from yours. They spend more of their day apart from you and have experiences you may not know about. Unless you maintain the effort to stay in tune with the things that are important to your children, your relationship with them will deteriorate. This is something you want to avoid regardless of the outcome of your custody dispute with the other parent.
An experienced Florida family law attorney can help you evaluate the strength of your relationship with your child, including your capacity and disposition to be informed about the things that are important to them.
Whether you have a divorce or custody dispute in your future, or are in the midst of one, it’s never too soon to think about how much you know about your kids’ lives. Deepening your involvement with your children’s care will not only benefit your custody case, but your relationship with your children. It may even improve your relationship with their other parent. While it may be too late to save your marriage or romantic partnership, engaging in your children’s care can create a good foundation for your new relationship as co-parents.If you have questions about time-sharing and parental responsibility or the Florida best interests factors, please contact Miami family lawyer Antonio Jimenez to schedule a consultation.