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Judges in contested child custody cases consider many factors including the developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.  Litigating parents should journal how they meet their child’s specific needs.  

Children have different developmental needs depending upon their age. An infant to a 2 year old will generally explore the world through sucking, looking, grasping and pulling. Therefore the developmental needs for an infant include a home environment that is child proof with sensory objects to explore and a parent that is very attentive and loving.

Toddlers to a young children, ages 2 to 7 begin to use language and develop their memory and imagination. These children generally engage in pretend play. A parent of a child at this age should engage their child’s creativity by getting down on the floor and playing with their child whether it is pretending to be super heroes, pretending to be a vet or sailing in a pretend boat.

Elementary age children, ages 7 to 11 become more aware of themselves as individuals as they gain an understanding that not everyone else necessarily shares their thoughts, feelings, and opinions. Parents of children at this age should help their child understand how another child feels in a given situation; guide their child to treat others with kindness; and help their child find a sense of direction as he or she explores his or her own interests and dislikes.

Pre-teenagers and teenagers often expand their development by participating in extra-curricular activities. It is important to pre-teens and teenagers to share what they are doing with others that are special to them. Parents of pre-teenagers and teenagers should be interested in what is going on in their child’s life, engage their child in conversation, encourage their child to try out for a team or otherwise participate in age appropriate social activities and guide their child to be able to grow into a healthy adult.

This 20 part series tracks what judges are required to consider when making child custody and parenting plan determinations in divorce and paternity cases pursuant to Florida law to help parents focus on what is relevant to the Court to effectively present their divorce, paternity or modification of child custody case. Judicial child custody determination factors 1 to 18 are available in the Child Custody Achieves.