Child custody (or “Time Sharing” as it is legally called in Florida), is a sensitive and emotional topic for parents going through a divorce in Florida. It can be difficult to understand the legal process and the factors that the court considers when making a custody determination. Here, we’ll answer seven common questions about child custody in Florida.
- What types of child custody are there in Florida?
In Florida, two types of child custody define a parent’s rights: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to a parent’s obligation to provide a home for their child and to make decisions on the child’s behalf on a daily basis. One parent may have a majority of time sharing or both have equal time sharing. Legal custody refers to the ability of a parent to make important decisions on behalf of the child, such as those related to education, health care and religion, regardless of whether they have physical custody or not.
In Florida, however, the concept of “parental responsibility” replaces the traditional child custody system. Although legal custody can be shared (with joint decision-making responsibilities) or sole (with one parent having ultimate decision-making authority), the court begins with the basis that both parents share in the responsibility of raising a child and that they must work together in decision-making that impacts the child’s well-being. Each still retains full parental rights and shares the parenting workload. All Florida court custody decisions – physical and legal, sole, or shared – are based on this idea of “parental responsibility”. Parents must assert their legal rights when these vital decisions are being made.
- How does the court determine custody?
The court in Florida will consider the best interests of the child when making a custody determination. This includes factors such as the child’s relationship with each parent, the child’s preference, each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s physical and emotional needs, and each parent’s ability to encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent.
- How is a parenting plan determined?
A parenting plan is a document that outlines the specific details of the custody arrangement, such as the child’s living arrangements, communication schedule, and decision-making responsibilities. The court will consider the best interests of the child when creating a parenting plan. If the parents can agree on a plan, the court will likely approve it, but if not, the court will create a plan for them.
- Can a parent move away with the child?
In some cases, one parent may want to relocate with the child after a divorce. The court will consider the best interests of the child when deciding on this matter. If the relocation is in the best interests of the child, the court may approve it. But, if the move would harm the child’s relationship with the other parent, the court may deny the request. A parent cannot move the child’s residence away without an agreement or a court order, or they may be subject to legal consequences including a change in their majority time sharing, along with being ordered to return the child.
- How long do child custody cases typically take in Florida?
The length of time it takes for a divorce or custody suit to be over is dependent on several factors including if or how easily parents can reach a time-sharing agreement. If the parents are not able to agree, then it depends on how soon a court hearing can be scheduled. Cases that are litigated can potentially last up to a year or longer. A temporary time-sharing arrangement may be put in place by a court until a permanent parenting plan is approved.
- If both parents share custody, who pays child support?
Generally, the non-custodial parent or one who has the least amount of visitation will usually be the party who pays more in child support. That said, cases in which parents share custody equally do not automatically ensure that no one pays child support. Indeed, even in most such cases, one parent is typically ordered to pay child support. Ultimately, Florida Courts consider a variety of factors under Florida Statute 61.13 when determining child support. The factors include both parents’ incomes, childcare & healthcare expenses, health insurance, how much time the child spends with each parent, and more.
- Can custody arrangements be modified in the future?
Custody arrangements can be modified in the future if there is a significant change in circumstances. For example, if one parent becomes unable to care for the child, the other parent may be able to request a change in the custody arrangement. Parents need to understand that the court’s primary concern is always the best interests of the child, and modifications will be made accordingly.
Protecting you and your family in a Florida child custody case
Child custody can be an impassioned and complicated process, but it’s important for parents to understand their rights and the factors that the court considers when making a determination. That’s why it is critical for you to have a family law attorney that is familiar with the law and the procedures for how to establish a parenting plan and timesharing schedule that makes sense for you and your family.
If you’re going through a divorce in Florida and have questions about child custody, contact our family law attorneys at Parra Harris. We provide more than 52 years of experience handling the most sensitive and complex family law cases.
We work to resolve your matter amicably through negotiation or mediation, and when necessary, by litigation. We fight as an advocate on your behalf to make sure that the best interests of you and your family are represented.