Although marriage and divorce rates have declined over the past decade, hundreds of thousands of couples still file for divorce every year.
Are you and your spouse about to divorce? Are you wondering about child custody in Florida?
Whether your divorce is consensual or highly controversial, understanding Florida custody laws is important. You also need to know when to hire a custody attorney (if necessary) and how to get the best outcome for your child.
Read on as we discuss these important topics and more.
Child Custody in Florida: An Overview
Florida custody laws put both parents on an equal footing – at least in the beginning. The law does not favor either the mother or the father in custody. Rather, it is recognized that children are best when they can spend time with both parents.
In Florida, divorcing parents must create a parenting plan and submit it to the court. This must contain two main sections:
- Parental leave (time sharing for child custody)
- Parental responsibility (right of each parent to make legal, religious, educational and medical decisions about their child)
If the divorce is amicable and both parents can agree on the terms, they can create their plan without a custody attorney.
In most cases, however, divorced couples will need the assistance of a mediator or lawyer to help them create their parenting plan. If there are certain conditions that they cannot agree on, the judge will ultimately decide what they think is best for the child.
Frequently asked questions about child custody in Florida
Now that you have a basic overview of child custody in Florida, let’s dig deeper into a few related topics.
- How does the judge determine custody?
A judge wants to see the willingness of all parents to put their child’s needs above their own. The court is reviewing evidence to determine how much each parent has been (and wants to be) involved in their child’s life. You will also consider each parent’s ability to provide safe and loving environments for their children.
Some specific factors that the judge will consider include:
- the moral aptitude of each parent
- the willingness of each parent to maintain a relationship with the child
- the ability of each parent to care for the child’s physical and emotional needs
- the ability of each parent to maintain a safe environment and stable routine
- the geographic logistics of the parenting plan (i.e. how far away the parents live and how long it takes to travel between homes)
- any evidence of domestic violence or neglect
When your child is old enough to understand what is happening, the judge will also consider your child’s preference for living together.
- How does the court determine moral suitability?
This includes any behavior on the part of the parents that could affect the ethical and moral development of their child. Examples include:
- physical violence
- verbal abuse
- Substance abuse
- illegal behavior
- frequent casual relationships with many partners
The court also wants to see evidence that each parent is encouraging their child to have a healthy relationship with the other parent.
- Which details belong in the parenting plan?
Whether you are able to reach a friendly settlement or provide a parenting plan to the court, it should include the following important details:
- Proposed time-sharing (custody) schedule
- Designated main address for school registration, medical files, etc.
- A detailed plan for sharing daily parental responsibilities
- Which parent is primarily responsible for educational and health decisions?
- Details of how parents communicate with each other and with their children
It is important to note that you can change any decisions about custody until your children turn 18.
For example, if your ex remarries or you suspect abuse or neglect, you can request a change in custody. A judge will reconsider the current parenting plan and order changes if they believe it is in the best interests of the child.
When to hire a child care attorney
So we discussed some basic Florida custody laws. The next logical question is, do you need to hire a custody attorney like kemprugegreen.com to win your case?
If you and your ex can come up with a parenting plan and you both agree to the terms, you may not need to hire a lawyer. However, in most cases, a custody attorney is essential for the best outcome.
Here are some circumstances when you definitely need a family law attorney:
- Your ex has already hired a lawyer
- There is a history of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence
- One parent has already remarried or lives with a new partner
- Your ex is combative, manipulative, or disobeying current custody rules
- Your ex is trying to prevent you from seeing your children
- You (or your ex) will be ordered to enroll in substance abuse or anger management classes
- Your ex now lives in a different city, state, or country
- You think your ex is an unsuitable parent
- You have a feeling that for some reason your child may be in danger
Remember, regardless of your feelings about your ex, your children must always be the priority during the divorce process. If you and your spouse disagree, a lawyer can help you negotiate terms that work for everyone.
Florida Child Custody Application: Final Thoughts
Understanding Florida custody laws is important if you are a parent at the start of a divorce.
You and your future ex-partner will need to create an education plan that will be presented to the court. If you cannot agree on certain terms, the judge will decide based on your child’s best interests. If possible, the judge will also take your child’s preferences into account when making their decision.
And if your divorce is in dispute, you should have a custody attorney by your side to get the best outcome for everyone involved.
Now that you know more about child custody in Florida, what’s next? Search our website for more Florida news and topics.