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Older children may get say in Florida child custody decisions

Child custody decisions in Florida are made by the standard that the child’s best interests are paramount. If the child is old enough, the judge may ask him or her where he or she would prefer to live, though that may not be the only evidence considered. Commonly, the choice comes down to one parent or the other having primary custody. But in an unusual case from outside of Florida, the choice was between a father and an unrelated couple trying to fulfill a deceased mother’s wishes.

The father and his ex-wife divorced in 2002. They had two sons. The mother was granted primary child custody. She moved with the boys to another state; they spent their summers and holidays with their father.

Then, in 2006, the mother was diagnosed with cancer. She died in January 2012. One of her final wishes was that her sons would remain in the small town she had raised them in. A local couple agreed to take them in and serve as the boys’ legal guardians.

Their father says he did not learn about the plan until the day of his ex-wife’s funeral, when he was served with a summons telling him the couple had been named temporary guardians of his sons. He fought the custody arrangement by requesting the guardianship be dismissed.

The case was unusual, in that neither side contended that the father was an unfit parent. It was simply about whether the sons would stay with the guardians, as they wished, or live with their father.

In the end, the father won, but his relationship with both boys was strained. His younger son, 16, is no longer living with the father. He filed for emancipation upon his 16th birthday.

Cases like this one show how difficult it can be to determine a child’s best interests sometimes.

Source: Albuquerque Journal, “A custody fight gone crazy,” Joline Gutierrez Krueger, April 30, 2014

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