Regardless of how amicable, the process of a child custody battle in Florida is frequently the most emotionally draining element of a family law case and a source of frustration for the family lawyer. You may regain assets that were once lost, but you will never be able to get back the time you may have lost with your children.
When there is instability in the family, there is an increased risk of problems for children. Loss of income, catastrophic illness, substance abuse, incarceration, or divorce can cause significant disruptions in family members' quality of life, especially the children. For these reasons, child welfare is always at the forefront of a child custody battle.
The Structure of Child Custody
The matter of child custody is complex regardless of the context. Whether the fight over custody is a result of separation, divorce, or allegations of child abuse, the child's best interest must take center stage while also considering parental rights. But because the state of Florida may also have an explicit interest in the welfare of the minors involved, the number of participants in a custody dispute goes beyond the two parents.
Once children are old enough to express their personal preferences, the court may appoint a guardian to represent the child or children to tell who they would like to have custody of freely. The court acknowledges the dependence of children on adults, which is why the court may act swiftly to enforce protective measures that will impact the parents' right to due process.
Because there are state institutions with a legal responsibility to get involved, hiring the services of a skilled child custody lawyer in Florida is in your best interest.
Chapter 39 of the Florida statutes addresses proceedings relating to children. If a child has been abused, neglected, or injured while in the care of a parent, that parent may have their visitation or custody revoked. In situations where one parent refuses or cannot take custody or abandons their child, the other parent is allowed sole custody. However, chapter 39 proceedings are handled primarily in dependency court. This firm does not handle dependency court cases but will be happy to refer you to an experienced attorney who does. For family law and family court purposes, divorce and family lawyers focus on child custody as found in §61.13, Florida Statutes.
Child Custody or Time-Sharing
Florida divorce and family lawyers focus on time-sharing and crafting an agreement in the child's best interest to avoid a protracted hearing in front of the judge. Neither parent will be awarded sole custody since custody does not exist in family court. It is called time-sharing. One parent may be awarded 100% time-sharing, but the judge must put a plan in place that tells the parent what they need to do to get time-sharing. It is the public policy of the state of Florida "that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing. There is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule when creating or modifying the parenting plan of the child."
So unless the other parent's conduct falls under the definition of abuse, abandonment, or neglect in chapter 39, Florida Statutes, both parents are more than likely going to get time-sharing. It is always in the parents' best interest to negotiate a time-sharing schedule that puts the children first and works for them. Parental responsibility is going to be shared unless the court finds that it would be detrimental to the child. Detriment to the child is a strict standard to prove and will likely fail unless the evidence is strong and compelling. When facing a divorce or paternity action, the correct mindset is to acknowledge and accept that the other parent is going to get time-sharing and that sharing is the end game.
If your ex and you cannot reach an agreement on time-sharing, you may need to attend a custody hearing where you will sit before a judge. If you are unable to reach a decision on your own, you are putting the responsibility of making custody arrangements in the hands of that judge.
Even though the judge will act by what they feel is in the best interest of the child or children, you may still want to consider resolving the matter outside of court.
The court is legally permitted to consider a myriad of relevant factors as it makes its decision. Factors that relate to your child's safety and health will take precedence.
Some of the factors will focus on the parents and ask questions like:
- Which parent is more likely to take care of the child's day-to-day emotional, physical, educational, and developmental needs?
- Who is better suited to provide a stable, loving, nurturing, and consistent relationship with the child?
- Which parent is more likely to encourage frequent and regular contact between the other parent and the child?
- Does either parent have a history of drug or alcohol abuse?
- Does either parent have a criminal record or a history of physical abuse?
Other elements are considered that are more child-focused, such as:
- If the child is old enough, with whom would he or she prefer to stay?
- Are there siblings to be considered in the situation?
- Regarding the child's education, sense of community, and family life, what scenario will provide stability for the child?
The specific list of factors is found in §61.13, Florida Statutes. However, for the sake of practicality, it is essential to remember that the judges will always start with the premise that shared parental responsibility and equal time-sharing will be the starting point for every case, and it is extremely difficult and unlikely that one parent will have 100% time-sharing. Children need both parents.
Consult with an Experienced Florida Child Custody Lawyer
If you are a parent going through the rigors of a child custody process in Florida, contact our firm right away to help you work toward a favorable judgment. At Florida Divorce Law Group, we have the experience to make the system work for you, not against you.
We appreciate the fact that it's in the child's best interest for all parties involved to come to an amicable agreement in terms of time-sharing. We will help guide you through this stressful process in a manner that benefits everyone.
To get started working on your case, schedule a consultation today. We serve all of Florida and have offices in Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, and Tampa. Zoom consultations with an attorney are available.