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The Different Types of Child Custody in Florida, Explained
There are several types of child custody a court can grant. State laws determine the types of custody the courts can grant for children subject to the state’s jurisdiction.
In Florida, the terms “custody” and “visitation” are no longer used in official terminology; instead, terms like “parental responsibility” and “time-sharing” are. However, the terms refer to the same concepts. They determine which parent has physical control over the child and which parent can make legal decisions for the child.
What Types of Custody Are There in Florida Child Support Cases?
According to state law, parents have a right to make legal decisions for their children. The decisions include issues related to the child’s health, well-being, and education. Parents also have the right to decide how their child spends their extracurricular time and their religious upbringing.
A parent’s right to make decisions for their child is often referred to as legal custody or parental rights. Parents can share legal custody, so each parent has the right to be informed and contribute when important decisions are made for their child. If a parent has sole legal custody, they can make decisions for the child without input from the other parent.
Physical Custody or Time-Sharing
Time-sharing refers to how often the child spends time with each parent. Parents can share equal time with their children. However, most timesharing plans designate a custodial parent who has the child most of the time.
Having the child remain in one home most of the time provides continuity and stability. The other parent has the child for visitation.
Florida child custody laws allow parents a great deal of flexibility to develop parenting plans and timesharing schedules that benefit the child. Each family situation is unique. Therefore, a child might spend equal time with parents who live close by, but a child with parents who live far apart might have a much different timesharing schedule.
How Do the Courts Decide on Legal Custody or Parental Responsibility?
Typically, parents share legal custody. They have joint parental responsibilities unless it is not in the child’s best interest for parents to have joint legal custody.
The same applies to physical custody. A judge can grant joint physical custody or sole physical custody. With sole physical custody, the judge would determine when the non-custodial parent could see the child, including whether the visits are supervised. The order would address weekend visits, overnight visits, birthdays, holidays, and school vacations.
When parents dispute custody, a judge must decide what is in the child’s best interest. The courts use numerous factors to determine how to award custody and visitation that protect the child. Factors include:
Any history of child neglect, abuse, or domestic violence
A parent’s ability to encourage and support a close parent-child relationship and keep timesharing schedules
Each parent’s living arrangement
The geographic location of each parent’s home
If a parent intends to delegate parenting responsibilities to a third party
Each parent’s mental health and physical conditions
A parent’s ability to put their child’s needs above their own
Each parent’s knowledge of the child’s daily routine, teachers, friends, and doctors
The child’s reasonable preferences, depending on the child’s maturity and understanding
The child’s needs and a parent’s demonstrated ability to meet those needs
The parenting duties of each parent before beginning the divorce proceedings
A judge can consider any factors relevant to deciding how to award child custody. When a parent contests custody, a judge can order a psychological custody evaluation and appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the child’s best interests.
Parents may hire one or more expert witnesses to assist in contested custody cases. Parents with minor children contemplating a divorce should seek legal counsel from an experienced Orlando child custody lawyer immediately. Even if you believe your spouse will work with you to resolve custody, it is best to be prepared if your spouse refuses to negotiate a settlement in your child’s best interest.
What Happens if Child Custody Needs To Be Modified?
As a child grows up and things change in a parent’s life, circumstances could require a change in custody terms. Parents can agree to modify custody terms. However, you must petition the court for a new custody order to make the agreement legal.
If your child’s other parent refuses to agree to modify custody, you can petition the court for a modification order. The court grants custody modifications for a change in circumstances that justifies modifying custody. The court must find that the change in custody terms is in the best interest of the child.
The quicker you seek legal counsel, the better your chance of obtaining the desired outcome. Child custody cases can be complicated. Having sound legal advice is the best way to protect your child.