Child Custody in Florida

Family Attorney that Understand the Laws and Your Rights in Child Custody

Child custody is one of the most emotional and contentious types of practice areas that is a part of family law. When spouses divorce and children are involved, it is not just the fracturing of a family that occurs, but also potential repercussions that can affect children for years to come, is an issue that causes great concern.  In some instances, parents who are angry and distressed as a result of divorce proceedings, may find it difficult to think about what is in the best interest of their children, which is why it is so important for them to hire an experienced family law attorney who can offer knowledgeable and dedicated representation.

Common Types of Child Custody Explained

You may have a general idea of what child custody entails, but the truth is that there is more than one type of custody that a court can grant one or both parents:

  • Sole Custody

In this case, a single parent will have either sole legal custody, sole physical custody or both. This type of child custody is awarded to a parent or a guardian if the other parent is deemed unfit to raise the child. In some cases, the family court will award this type of custody in a way that gives the noncustodial parent some opportunity to take part in the child’s life.

  • Shared Parental Responsibility (Joint Custody)

Shared parental responsibility is awarded to both parents and is on par with the terms of joint custody. The court usually awards this custody to both parents who demonstrate that they are fit to raise the child, and is in the child’s best interest. This type of child custody can be awarded as both joint legal custody and joint physical custody even if the two parents have never lived together.

  • Physical Custody (Time Sharing)

Physical custody is often referred to as time sharing. In this case, the child spends most of the time with one parent or guardian and only visits the other parent on occasion. Sometimes, both parents spend an equal amount of time with their child, rotating weekends, holidays, and weekdays.

  • Legal Custody

If a parent, grandparent or guardian has sole custody, that caregiver can make all the decisions regarding the child without consulting the other parent. However, in Florida, the court often awards shared parental responsibility to both parents, giving them legal rights concerning any decisions that need to be made regarding their child. In cases where the one parent is abusive or has ended communication, it is possible to convince the court that it’s in the best interest of your child for you to have sole legal custody.

Dealing with Child Custody Issues

The laws vary from state to state, so it is important to talk with a qualified, experienced divorce/paternity lawyer when dealing with types of child custody issues. We also have a list of Florida Child Custody Guidelines on our website.

No matter what type of custody arrangement you are involved in, you should work with your family lawyer and your spouse to create a co-parenting plan that details how you will arrive at a consensus when it comes to making major decisions, including health care, education, upbringing methods, religion and the specific days your child will spend time with the other parent. This can help prevent conflicts from arising in the future, especially if your ex-spouse’s domestic situation changes, such as through a remarriage.

How Florida Courts Determine Custody

As in most states, family law judges in Florida make all of their child custody determinations based on what will most benefit a child or children in a divorce. But judges must also take into consideration a number of factors, such as:

  • How parental responsibilities will be allocated, and whether third parties, such as grandparents, uncles or aunts will play a large role in the child’s upbringing.
  • The parents’ ability to place their child’s welfare ahead of their own desires.
  • The likelihood that both parents will make an effort to adhere to agreements regarding shared custody, and the likelihood that they will be open to changes in the agreement.
  • How long a child has lived in his/her current situation, and if that situation is beneficial to their well-being.
  • The geographic proximity of each parent’s residence, which is a big factor in joint physical custody decisions.
  • The preference of the child, which plays a bigger role if the child is old enough to make intelligent decisions about which parent they would rather live with.
  • Any issues such as domestic violence or child abuse that would demonstrate that one parent is not fit to be awarded custody.
  • The extent to which each parent has protected their child from learning the details of the pending divorce and custody issues.
  • The development stage of each child and the extent to which each parent is equipped to provide for future developmental needs.
  • Evidence confirming how effectively each parent communicates with the other parent regarding issues and activities of the child.

The list of factors is why it is so important for you to secure the services of a Florida family lawyer, because it is an attorney’s responsibility to ensure that those factors are highlighted to create the best scenario for a custody decision that is favorable to you.

The Rights of Grandparents/Relatives in Child Custody

An increasing number of children are living with their grandparents and other relatives throughout the country, and the courts have made provisions for these individuals who act as caregivers to petition for custody.

In Florida, the rights of grandparents and other relatives to gain custody of the children is determined by whether the child is non-dependent or dependent.

A non-dependent child does not fall under the authority of the Department of Children and Families, whereas a dependent child is supervised by a caseworker at this agency.

The four most common child custody options for grandparents and relatives of non-dependent children are:

  • Physical Custody – the child lives with the grandparents or relatives, but a parent can take them away at any time, since there is no legal custody granted under this option. This usually occurs when grandparents or other relatives and parents enter into an agreement about the child’s living arrangement.
  • Temporary Custody – awards legal custody to grandparents or other relatives for a period of time, and a judge determines the kinds of decisions they can make on behalf of their grandchild.
  • Guardianship – awards legal custody to grandparents or other relatives until the child turns 18, or a family court orders a change. Parents of the child who wish to change this type of custody must obtain a court order.
  • Adoption – awards permanent custody to grandparents or other relatives under the condition that parents have renounced their parental rights, or a court has revoked those rights.

The four most common child custody options for grandparents and relatives of dependent children are:

  • Court-Ordered Placement – places children under care of their grandparents or other relatives for a temporary period of time with supervision by the Department of Children and Families. This is typically awarded when parents are unable to care for a child for a specific period of time.
  • Temporary Custody – awards grandparents or other relatives temporary legal custody, which means they can make major decisions for the child with support and supervision from the Department of Children and Families.
  • Long-Term Custody – awards grandparents or other relatives legal custody after six months of temporary custody. This often occurs after parents have been deemed incapable of caring for the child and have had their rights taken away by the court. However, if the parents of the child change their way of life, they can petition the court to regain custody.
  • Adoption – awards permanent custody to grandparents or other relatives under the condition that parents have renounced their parental rights, or a court has revoked those rights.

Seek an Experienced Family Lawyer

If you are going through a child custody situation, and you want the help of an experienced family lawyer, please call the law office of Eric C. Cheshire, P.A.  at 561-655-8844 for a personal legal consultation with Mr. Cheshire. We have dealt with many types of child custody cases, and we have the resources necessary to help you obtain the best arrangement possible for everyone.