Module 5

Best interest of the children.


The best interests of the children is the main purpose of the Parenting Plan, regardless of who creates the document itself. In creating the Parenting Plan, all circumstances between the parties, including the parties' historic relationship, domestic violence, and other factors are taken into consideration. See - Florida Statute 61.13. Determination of the best interests of the children is made by evaluating all of the factors affecting the welfare and interest of the minor children:

  • The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the timesharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required;

  • The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties; The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child(ren) as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent;

  • The length of time the child(ren) has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity;

  • The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child(ren);

  • The moral fitness of the parents; The mental and physical health of the parents; The home, school, and community record of the child(ren); The reasonable preference of the child(ren), if the court deems the child(ren) to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference;

  • The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child(ren), including, but not limited to, the child(ren)'s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things;

  • The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child(ren), such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime;

  • The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child(ren), and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child(ren); Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought;

  • Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect;

  • The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division or parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties; The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child(ren)'s school and extracurricular activities; The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child(ren) which is free from substance abuse;

  • The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child(ren) from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child(ren), not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child(ren), and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child(ren); and the developmental stages and needs of the child(ren) and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child(ren)'s developmental needs.


Every child deserves the financial support of both parents. It is the law in Florida that every dependent and/or minor child has the right to financial support from both parents. Florida law states that each parent has a fundamental obligation to support his or her minor or legally dependent child. Both parents are required to provide financial support, but one parent may be ordered to pay a portion of his or her support for the children to the other parent. Florida has adopted guidelines for determining the amount of child support to be paid.


The amount of child support paid from one parent to another is based on guidelines defined in Florida Law. There is a form called the Florida Child Support Guidelines Worksheet on the Florida Supreme Court's site that will do the calculations for you. These guidelines are used the first time child support is ordered and every time the child support amount changes after that. When modifications are necessary, the same guidelines are used to review the order to see if the support amount should be changed.

Child support guidelines consider the net income of both parents; the child's health care costs; child care costs; and the number of overnights a child spends in each parent's home. A list of support amounts based on the number of children subject to child support and net income of the parents can be found in section 61.30, Florida Statutes, Child support guidelines.

The court or agency establishing support (usually Florida Department of Revenue) must use the set child support guidelines to decide the amount of child support that will go into a Florida child support order. In special circumstances, and as approved by the court, support amounts can be higher or lower than the guideline amounts. For example, a judge may consider a child's high medical expenses as a reason to change the support amount. In most cases, however, judges have to give written reasons why support amounts are different from guideline amounts.


When a child support order is issued, the amount of child support is based on the income of both parents and the needs of the child. Over time the needs of a child or the parent's income may change. If this happens, you may want to ask for an increase or decrease in the ordered child support. This change is called a modification. A modification of child support normally requires the party requesting the change to prove that a "substantial change in circumstances has occurred." Chapter 61, Florida Statutes, provides the basis for proving a "substantial change in circumstances" upon which a modification of an existing child support order may be granted. However, the difference between the existing monthly obligation and the amount provided for under the guidelines must be at least 15% or $50, whichever amount is greater, before the court may decide that the guidelines provide a substantial change in circumstances.


Florida wants parents, not the State, to take care of their children. In all but two Florida counties, the Department of Revenue is the state agency responsible for Florida's Child Support Enforcement Program. The Department works with the courts, law enforcement, other Florida agencies and all other states to enforce support orders. The State Attorney's Office provides services in Miami-Dade County and the Manatee County Clerk of Court provides services in Manatee County.

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