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How being a primary caretaker influences custody rulings

Many child custody cases can be settled out of court with an agreement between the two parents. When this is not possible, however, a judge will make the important custody decisions. Judges in custody cases in Florida and across the United States tend to award primary physical custody to the parent who spends the most time with the children, also called the "primary caretaker."

This preference developed because psychologists have repeatedly stressed the importance of the bond between the child and his or her primary caretaker. When deciding who is the primary caretaker, courts will generally look at who has assumed important roles in the child's life, such as meal planning and preparation, assisting the child with bathing and grooming, helping the child with school work and planning the child's extracurricular activities.

When both parents have shared parenting responsibilities equally, courts will consider what is in the best interests of the child when determining which parent should be awarded primary physical custody. Courts will look at factors such as the child's preference, the child's relationship with other members of the household and the child's adjustment to the area school and neighborhood. Courts will also look at factors such as whether either parent has abused alcohol or drugs or if either parent has physically or emotionally abused the child.

A parent who is embroiled in a custody dispute as part of a divorce may want to have the assistance of an attorney in attempting to resolve it. In some cases, mediation can serve as an alternative to having a judge make the determination.

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