Child custody is one of the most complex areas of the law in Florida. Because the facts and circumstances of each case are so unique, the legislature has set out close to two dozen factors that the court must consider when making a determination regarding custody (note: custody is typically referred to as "timesharing" in Florida.)
The factors, set forth in Florida Statute 61.13, require the court to take a deep look into the family dynamic. For example, factor (a) requires the court to consider the "demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required." This means that the Court must consider whether or not the parents have cooperated to keep each-other involved in the children's lives, even while a divorce or custody case is pending.
What makes this even more confusing is that factor (d) calls for the court to review "the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity." These two factors seem to contradict each-other, and in fact they do to some degree. Consider this: suppose a mother has withheld timesharing from the father for an entire year while a case is pending. The father tried to see the children but the mother denied him access. The children live with her in Pinellas County; the Father resides in Hillsborough County. Factor (a) would clearly favor the Father, as the Mother has denied him the right to see his children for months. However, factor (d) would clearly favor the Mother as the children have lived with her in Pinellas for an entire year. As you can see, these factors have overlapped, requiring the court to use its discretion in making a decision as to what is in the best interest of the child.
The takeaway here is that it is very important to understand the factors the court will analyze and how they will be applied in your case. You should gain an understanding of these factors as early as possible to ensure you are acting in a manner that will be viewed favorably by the court at a later time if your case does go to trial.
You should also keep in mind that the decisions you make will have long term effects on your children and therefore it is imperative that you always put them first when making decisions regarding custody/timesharing.