Child Custody Attorney

Overview on Florida Child Custody Laws

Custody battles in Florida are arguably the most highly contested types of cases. They involve tremendous amounts of emotional turmoil and stress. Generally, Florida law has determined maintaining contact with both parents is in the child’s best interest; however; courts have put in place clear guidelines in determining child custody to better determine what is best for the child during a divorce.

Custody vs Parenting Plans in Florida

The difference between the term “custody” and “parenting plans” is mostly just semantics. In 2008, the Florida legislature ruled that terms like “custody,” “primary custodial parent,” “primary residence”, etc imply control over the child. New terms, such as “parenting plans,” “time sharing,” and “shared parental responsibility” more accurately describe what a child goes through during a divorce.

Regardless of the change, old terms continue to be used interchangeably with new terms. However, the choice of wording carries a strong implication that bringing up children is a mandated responsibility that parents must uphold throughout the life of the child. When determining custody, or parental planning, the courts essentially have two options: shared parental responsibility, where the parents make decisions together, or sole parental responsibility, where one parent is awarded responsibility to make day to day decisions for the child.

Child Custody and Changing Terminology

Changes in operational vocabulary also brought changes in how custody arrangements are organized. Courts ideally want both parents to be involved with a child’s upbringing, so they enforce the necessity of a comprehensive “parenting plan” or “time sharing plan.” Florida statute 61.13 states that in order for a parenting plan to be approved by the court, it must follow certain guidelines.

If the divorcing couple cannot agree upon an adequate time sharing agreement, a state appointed psychologist will step in and conduct a custody evaluation. The psychologist is intended to serve as a neutral third party who is more capable of determining an arrangement best suited for the child’s needs. An evaluation can range in price from $4500 up to $30,000 for a high end evaluator. This is not paid for by the court, but rather the responsibility of one or both of the parents in question.

Sole or Full Custody in Florida  

The term “sole custody” has not existed in Florida since 2011. Courts will not cut a parent out of a child’s life. Even in extraordinary circumstances, a parent will at the very least be granted limited supervised visitation with their child.

Florida courts consider time sharing and parental responsibility to be two separate issues. Parental responsibility refers to the parent who holds decision making power over major decisions, such as where a child goes to school, medical procedures, etc. Time sharing is the time you are actually spending with your child. It denotes the time you spend with your child is not just about “visitation,” it is the time you spend parenting your child.

When parents share responsibility it requires both parties notify each other of decisions regarding their child while the child is with them. A judge can order that a parent have sole parental responsibility over specific decisions regarding the child’s life. For example, if a child needs a medical procedure that goes against one parent’s religious beliefs, a court can grant the other parent sole parental responsibility over medical decisions.

If one parent is a danger to the child, there are a few options:

  • Supervised visitation
  • One sided decision making authority
  • Restricted overnights

Father’s Rights  

A man is legally considered to be a child’s father if he is either married to the mother of the child before the child is born, or through a Paternity Order from the court. The Florida family court operates under a “what is best for the child” standard, and does not discriminate between the rights of legal mothers and fathers.

According to 61.13, Florida Statutes, a child’s reasonable preference is factored into a parenting plan “if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.”

Relocation With Children

While there is no preference from the court in favor or against the relocation of a child, a parent who attempts to relocate their child without complying with Section 61.13001(3) of the Florida Statutes regarding the petition to relocate, could be subject to contempt and be required to return the child. Non compliance will be noted by the court in modification of the parenting plan and time sharing schedule.

In order to legally relocate a child while within the confines of a time sharing arrangement, the parent desiring relocation must either obtain a written agreement from the other parent, or serve a Petition to Relocate giving the other parent 20 days to object. When filing a Petition to Relocate, the petitioner must prove that moving the child is within the child’s best interest, not just theirs.

Child Custody Attorney in Jacksonville, Orange Park and Daytona Beach, Florida

Fighting for custody of your child can feel like an uphill battle. You will need a compassionate, yet assertive child custody attorney.

Our approach is one of understanding and integrity. We serve a wide range of clients, and deal with child custody battles. Let us ease the stress during the process of creating effective parenting plans, and Call Us Today For A Free Consultation.

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