The Basics Of Child Custody In Florida

Child custody refers to the care, control and maintenance of a child. In the vast majority of cases, state laws allow for the child's biological parents to make all the important decisions about:

  • where the child lives
  • what school the child attends
  • what religion the child is raised in
  • what doctor they see
  • what extracurricular activities the child participates in

In a divorce, if the parents disagree on which parents have the rights to make these decisions, or if government officials have good reason to believe that one or both parents are unfit to properly raise the child, then the family courts will step in and determine custody for them.

Child Custody Law - F.S. Section 61.3

In the state of Florida, child custody is covered under Section 61.3 of the Florida Statutes. Under Section 61.3(b) 1, it states that the court shall determine all child custody matters in accordance to the best interests of the child and in accordance with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act. In Florida, it is the public policy of the state to ensure that each minor has frequent and continuing contact with both of his or her parents, and to encourage both parents to share in the rights, responsibilities, and joys of raising their child.

Florida does not give preferential treatment to the father or the mother when making a child custody determination; therefore, each parent will be given equal consideration when it comes to determining the primary residence of the child regardless of the child's age or sex.

Shared Parental Responsibility

Due to the fact that the Florida courts encourages that both parents play an active role in their child's life, the court generally prefers to order that parental responsibility for the child be shared by both parents unless such an arrangement would prove detrimental to the child. Factors the court would take into consideration when determining shared parental responsibility include evidence that either parent has been convicted of a third degree felony or higher involving domestic violence, or if it can otherwise be proven that a shared parenting arrangement would not be in the child's best interests.

When the court is determining whether or not to award shared parental responsibility, it will carefully examine if either parent has any history or existence of drug or alcohol abuse, domestic violence, child molestation or child sexual abuse, mental illness, or if either parent has a criminal record, or if either parent is financially incapable of providing for their child. In essence, it all comes down to the best interests of the child and each family's situation is unique; therefore, no two cases can be handled identically.

Awarding Sole Parental Responsibility

There are times when the court may order sole parenting responsibility, with or without visitation rights to the other parent when the court deems it is in the child's best interests. However, access won't be denied to a child's medical, school, and dental records just because a parent is not the primary residential parent.

Child custody arrangements are subject to change. Since circumstances are likely to change for one or both parents or for the minor child as time goes by, it's not uncommon for one or both parents to petition the court for a child custody modification at some point in time. One common reason for child custody modifications has to do with parental relocation. In order to make a decision in favor or against a primary residential parent moving with the child, the court will fully examine whether or not allowing such a move would be in the child's best interests, and if allowing the move would facilitate and encourage continuing contact and a relationship with the nonresidential parent.

In matters where the custodial parent denies visitation rights to the noncustodial parent, it does not mean that the noncustodial parent can stop paying child support. When the court finds that the noncustodial parent has failed to honor the other parent their visitation rights, the court shall with proper cause award the noncustodial a sufficient amount of extra visitation time in order to compensate for the time that was lost.

Jacksonville Child Custody Attorney

My name is Charles E. Willmott, and as the founder of the firm, I am entirely dedicated to upholding your parental rights when it comes to child custody proceedings. As a Board-Certified divorce expert with over two decades of experience, I can honestly say that child custody matters are perhaps the most sensitive issues addressed in divorce. I understand how the happiness and emotional stability of your children is of the utmost importance, as is the integrity of your relationship with them. If you are getting a divorce or are in need of filing a petition for a child custody modification, I am here to explain your rights and responsibilities under the law, and to help you achieve your goals, whatever they may be. Please contact me today to get started securing the legal representation you need to see your matter through to the end result.

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