Are You Worried About Child Custody in Florida?

Choose a South Florida Custody Attorney Who Can Help

One of the most emotional parts of a divorce can be deciding on what happens to your children. Florida Courts focus on the child’s best interests when deciding parenting rights.

The best case scenario in any custody situation is when parents can agree to a parenting plan together. Doing that can be a real challenge, especially when emotions are running so high, so mediation may be necessary to accomplish that goal. If mediation doesn’t work, a family court judge will decide what’s best for parents and children.

Custody trials can be incredibly emotional and complicated, involving everyone from relatives, friends, teachers, babysitters, doctors, and psychologists. At Pazos Law Group, we do our best to minimize the damaging effects of custody cases on your children while keeping the focus on civil, harmonious negotiation between parents.

What’s the Difference Between Parental Responsibility and Time Sharing?

Custody can be broken into two parts: legal custody and physical custody. In Florida, the trend in family courts is to keep legal custody equal between both parents, which is called shared parental responsibility. That means that both parents will be able to make legal, medical, and educational decisions for their children–and the responsibilities that come with those rights. In a custody situation, parents can divide those responsibilities themselves or the court can do it for them.

Physical Custody is the amount of time each parent spends with the minor children. In Florida, either the parents can decide on the particular schedule to share with the child(ren) or, if unable to reach an agreement, the Court will decide for the parents.

What is in the Best Interest of the Child?

The term “best interest of the child” will be something you’ll hear us talk about often when discussing custody. Florida courts believe that, overall, children do better when they have frequent contact and a good relationship with both parents. That means that the court doesn’t assume that either parent is better than the other or that any parenting plan is better or worse than another.

The only exception to this position of shared parental responsibility is when the court finds that sharing custody would be detrimental to the children. That can happen if one of the parents has been convicted of a crime involving domestic violence or demonstrated a history of violence, neglect, or abuse. Even without a conviction, if the judge finds evidence of domestic violence or child abuse, that could be considered as detrimental.

Even when the judge decides to award “sole” custody to one parent, the other parent’s rights are not terminated unless the judge finds significant reasons to worry about the child’s safety.


What is a Parenting Plan? 

When parents are deciding on a parenting plan, that parenting plan will only be approved by a Florida Family Court judge if it does the following:

  • Describes in detail how parents share the responsibilities for daily parenting tasks
  • Includes time-sharing schedule arrangements that specifically details the time that the child will spend with each parent
  • Determines who is responsible for health care and school-related decisions (i.e. which address will be used for school enrollment)
  • Details the methods and technologies used to communicate with the other parents

The best case scenario that can happen in a custody arrangements is that parents decide on the terms of the parenting plan themselves. That’s what we work for at Pazos Law Group–an agreement that everyone can stand behind.

Once parents reach an agreement on a parenting plan, that plan must be written down and approved by the court. When that agreement simply cannot happen, through mediation or negotiation, a Florida Family Court judge makes the final decision about how parents will share time with their children.

How the Judge Decides on a Parenting Plan

Since the best interests of the child are the basis for Florida family court decisions, the judge has a number of factors to consider when deciding on a time-sharing plan.

These factors include:

  • The willingness of each parent to encourage and support the relationship with the other parent, to honor the time-sharing plan, and to be reasonable and adaptable to any changes
  • The ability of each parent to respond to the child’s needs rather than his or her own needs
  • The physical, mental, and emotional health of the parent
  • The stability of each parent’s home environment
  • The ability of each parent to be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities
  • The wishes of the child, when that child is older than 12 and demonstrates the intelligence, understanding, and experience to make such an important decision
  • The geographic details of the parenting plan and how difficult it will be for each parent to travel between the child’s school and activities
  • The division of parenting duties before the divorce or custody case
  • The moral fitness of each parent (meaning absence from substance abuse, frequent relationships with multiple partners, verbal abuse, or illegal behavior)
  • Any evidence of abuse or that a parent has provided false information about abuse claims
  • The ability of each parent to protect the child from the damage of a custody case and from speaking badly about the other parent in front of the child
  • The home, school, and community record of the child or children in question
  • The ability of each parent to keep the other parent informed about the child’s life and to establish a routine for the child
  • The capacity of each parent to provide the child with necessities such as food, clothing, shelter, education and medical care

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