Child custody matters can be overwhelming and emotionally challenging for families going through a divorce or separation. Navigating the legal aspects of child custody in Florida requires a solid understanding of the state's laws and regulations.
At Tinny, Meyer & Piccarreto, P.A., we are committed to providing you with the knowledge and support you need during this difficult time. In this blog post, we will delve into the intricacies of child custody in Florida, offering valuable insights and practical tips to help you make informed decisions.
Types of Child Custody Arrangements in Florida
When determining child custody, the courts are guided by what judges believe to be in the children’s best interest. That means in any given custody dispute, a unique arrangement of physical and legal custody may be granted solely or jointly between parents.
Legal custody is a parent’s authority to make important decisions on their child’s behalf, regardless of whether or not the child lives with them most of the time. Such decisions can range from education to religious upbringing, healthcare, and extracurricular activities. When both parents share joint legal custody, they must work together to resolve differences of opinion before bringing their dispute to the court. When one parent is granted sole legal custody, however, the other parent’s input doesn’t hold any legal weight.
Physical custody refers to how much time a child spends with each parent and with whom the child will live most of the time. Due to school and work schedules, it’s not common or practical for physical custody to be split 50/50 throughout the week. Because of this, time with a child may be split according to holidays, weekends, and long school breaks. Visitation may be ordered along similar guidelines. Ultimately, the court determines how much time each parent has with their child.
It’s possible for parents to share legal custody of their child while only one retains full physical custody – or any other combination of these factors. As mentioned previously, the court’s goal is to devise an arrangement best suited for each child in question.
Factors Considered in Determining Child Custody
In Florida, a court will consider a variety of factors when determining what is in the best interest of the child when it comes to custody matters.
These factors can include the following:
- The child’s age
- The emotional ties between each parent and the child
- The mental and physical health of both parents
- How capable each parent is of providing for the child's needs
- The current living circumstances of both parents
- How willing each parent is to encourage a relationship between the other parent and the child
- Any history of domestic violence or substance abuse by either parent
The court can also take into account any wishes expressed by the child if they are of an appropriate age. It’s important to consider all these factors when determining custody in Florida and consult with a family law attorney for legal advice and services.
Creating a Parenting Plan
A parenting plan can be an invaluable resource for allowing parents to cooperate, for their child’s benefit, when they are no longer married or living together.
Parenting plans should take into account the kind and extent of custody each parent has. With that in mind, there are a few key components that every parenting plan should address.
Such components include the following:
- Parental responsibility for minor children: This outlines how both parents will make decisions about their child’s upbringing and education. It also includes who will be primarily responsible for handling these decisions, such as health care, activities, extracurriculars, and religious obligations.
- Time-sharing schedule: This outlines when each parent has physical custody of the child(ren). It can be structured to cover daily routines or holidays/vacations.
- Transportation arrangements: This specifies how the child(ren) will get from one parent’s home to the other.
- Parenting communication: This outlines how the two parents will communicate and make decisions about their children's wellbeing, such as setting up a method of communication between them, methods for resolving disputes without court involvement, etc.
- Child support: If applicable, this portion of the plan outlines which parent is required to pay child support and how much must be paid. It should also specify where payments are to be sent and when they are due.
The parenting plan is often introduced by parents in divorce proceedings or required by a judge. Once both parties have signed the document, it can be used as an official parenting plan. Having a comprehensive parenting plan in place will help ensure the wellbeing of every child during and after divorce proceedings.
Modifying Child Custody Orders
Life circumstances change, and sometimes modifications to existing child custody orders become necessary. When either or both parents wish to modify child custody, they must initiate a petition to do so. Keep in mind, however, that there must be a substantial reason for any parent to request a modification – merely desiring a better outcome for the parent without an important reason that represents a child’s best interest is not enough.
Common reasons to modify child custody include the following:
- Failure to Comply with Court Order: If either parent fails to follow court orders regarding custody and parenting time, modifications may be necessary for a better outcome.
- Parental Relocation: When either parent wishes to move away, the court may need to reexamine the custody order and potentially alter how much time each parent has with their child.
- Emergencies: In cases where there is an emergency situation that requires immediate attention (such as domestic violence), couples can petition for temporary changes in the existing custody order while waiting for a more permanent solution.
- Child's Wishes: Depending on the child’s age and maturity, their wishes may be taken into consideration when modifying custody arrangements.
- Unfavorable Environment: If one parent is determined to create an environment that’s not in the best interests of the child, modifications can be made to protect them from harm.
- Parental Alienation: If one parent alleges that the other has attempted to turn their child against them, the court could modify custody as a remedy to repair a damaged bond between the affected parent and the child.
- Substance Abuse: In cases where substance abuse poses an immediate risk to a child’s safety and wellbeing, modifications may need to be put in place to protect them.
- Mental Illness: If one parent is suffering from a mental illness that impairs their ability to parent, the court may order a change in custody if it’s deemed necessary for the child’s wellbeing.
- Parental Neglect or Abuse: In cases of parental neglect or abuse, modifications can be put in place to better protect the interests of the child involved.
These are just a few of the many reasons why parents may seek to modify child custody. Ultimately, it’s up to the court to decide whether or not changes should be made based on all relevant factors. Any parent considering a modification of an existing order should speak with a legal professional before taking any action.
Contact Us for Legal Assistance
At Tinny, Meyer & Piccarreto, P.A., our experienced family law attorneys understand the complexities of child custody in Florida. We are dedicated to helping you navigate the legal process and work toward the best possible outcome for you and your child.
Remember, being well-informed is the first step toward achieving a favorable child custody arrangement. By understanding the laws and following the tips provided, you can make informed decisions that prioritize the best interests of your child.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation and let us guide you through this challenging time.