Overview of Child Custody in Florida

Over a decade ago, Florida made changes in how it approached child custody and divorcing parents that came through the court system. Legal terms such as “custody”, “visitation”, “primary residential parent” and “secondary residential parent” ar enot longer in use and have been replaced by shared parental responsibility, time sharing, and parenting plans. Too often Florida corts were seeing parents competing against one another in the attempt to be the “primary” parent instead of focusing on the true goal: what was best for the child(ren) invloved.

Now, the courts attempt to push and enourage divorcing spouses to remember that they are first and foremost parents – which means making decisions about the child’s education, health, and overall welfare together. At times, disagreements will be unavoidable so the courts will allow for a sole descision maker to have the final say.

Filing for divorce in Florida is hard eough for the parents, there is no need that those feelings of hurt or anger should relect on the child. Every effort should be made during a divorce to reduce the emotional impact that divorce can have on the child.

For joint custody to work in Florida, it must meet the following requirements:

  • Parents need to take time for the child. Parents need to create a schedule that gives both parents enough time to spend with and look after the child. Florida courts will ensure that both parents participate in all aspects of a child’s education. Therefore, time is important and each party must make this a priority.
  • Each parent has the same custody. There is no longer any entitlement to mothers because modern fathers want to play an active role in educating their children and are no longer content merely to act as providers. The common custody plan must prove this by establishing a balanced relationship for time for each parent. Florida custody requires that both parents have a firm commitment to the upbringing of their child.

Sole custody can still be granted by the court to a single parent in certain cases – divorce or custody cases in which there is susbtantial proof of child neglect, child abuse, domestic or fmaily violence, or extremely high conflict.

Factors for consideration

Prior to finilizing a divorce in Florida, divorcing parents will be required to create a detailed parenting plan that provides an explaination for shared parental responsibility and a through time sharing schedule. This parenting plan will be provided to the courts for approval and should cover the following considerations:

  • Each parent should have a chance to have a close relationship with their child;
  • Both parents shoul work together for the best interest of the child;
  • Both parents have to put the needs of the child before their own;
  • Once the divorce is final, how parental responsibility will be equally shared;
  • Considerations for daycare or child care assistance during each parent’s time scharing schedule’
  • How close each parent will be to each other or the child’s school;
  • The performance and behavior of the child at school;
  • Information sharing for education and extracurricular activities;
  • The opportunity each parent will have to be involved in the child’s schooling or activities;
  • The stability and routine each parent is able to provide;
  • The moral, mental, and physical aility of each parent to provide care for the child;
  • Each parent’s financial and emotional ability to provide for the child’s needs;
  • Continuing the same or similar parental reponsibility held by each parent prior to the divorce, if possible;
  • Depending on the child’s age and maturity, their personal preference;

The child’s and other spouses safety – was their prior abuse, neglect, or violence that needs to be addressed?