How Do Florida Courts Decide on Who Gets Child “Custody”?

Whether going through a divorce or paternity action, knowing that the future of your family is hanging in the balance can be extremely stressful. Taking some time to learn about how the courts make decisions on these types of cases can help you to prepare, and even help you make a more effective case.

Time Sharing and Parental Responsibility

Importantly, the term “custody” is no longer employed in divorce and paternity actions. Florida makes two determinations: Parental Responsibility and Time Sharing.

Parental Responsibility refers to who makes decisions in the child’s day to day life and in emergency situations. The court may choose to grant one parent sole parental responsibility or both parents shared parental responsibility. Sole parental responsibility means one parent has complete and total making decision making authority while Shared parental responsibility means both parents retain full rights and responsibilities over their child and both parents confer with each other confer in making decisions regarding the child. Florida law states that parental responsibility be shared unless shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child. What this means is that it is very difficult to obtain sole parental responsibility unless it can be proved to the court that having both parents make decisions for the child will be harmful in some way to the child.

Time-sharing is a schedule that is developed either by the parties or by the court that specifies the time, including overnights and holidays, that a child will spend with each parent. So even if one parent has sole parental responsibility, the other parent may be given time-sharing and will be able to visit the child, albeit with certain limitations.

Factors That the Courts Consider

Florida judges are required to determine all matters relating to parenting and time-sharing in accordance with the best interest of the child. The best interest of the child includes an evaluation of several factors. The following is a list of simply a few of those factors:

  • Foster healthy relationships – Florida courts want to see that both parents are encouraging a positive relationship with the other parent. They also want to ensure that parties are going to honor the time-sharing schedule, yet be reasonable when changes are required.
  • Ability to meet the child’s needs – It is important to be able to demonstrate that you can meet the needs of your children. This includes providing them with housing, food, clothing, education, and other basic necessities.
  • Stability – children need stability. As such, judge are to consider the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment.
  • Child’s wishes – if the child is of sufficient intelligence, understanding and experience, the judge will take their desires into account. So it is not necessarily about age, but about maturity and ability to fully understand what he or she desires.
  • Geography – the court will see if the proposed time-sharing schedule is geographically viable and whether the child’s age and the time spent traveling is appropriate.
  • Developmental stages – The court will look at where the child is developmentally and what needs does the child have. Then it will determine whether each parent can meet those needs.

There are several other factors the court will consider. Creating an effective parenting plan can be done by looking at as many factors as possible, both for you and your child’s other parent. An experienced Florida family law attorney will be able to highlight your strengths and navigate any potential problems.

Effective Family Law Representation

No matter how strong or weak you believe your case to be, having an attorney fighting for you can make all the difference in the world. Contact Annette Sanchez Law to discuss all your options, and begin working to craft an effective case so you can get the best possible results.

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