How Does Child Custody Work?

Every custody situation is different so having an experienced domestic law attorney on your side is important. Some custody cases can be decided through friendly cooperation and compromise, while others require a judge’s intervention.

What Does the Judge Look for in Considering Custody?

When a judge gets involved he/she is going to look at what is in the child’s best interest. In order to derive “best interest” he/she will look into facts like:

  • Mental and physical health of each parent
  • The home, school, and community record of the child(ren)
  • A record of a consistent routine with each parent (including mealtimes, bedtimes, etc.)
  • The ability of the parent to act in accordance of the child’s needs (medically, educationally, and more)
  • The amount of travel/distance between the parental homes
  • Evidence of domestic violence, neglect, abuse, abandonment, and/or sexual assault
  • Who was/is the primary caretaker of the child(ren)

Who Can Get Custody?

In most cases, both parents can get shared custody and time-sharing (visitation). The court does not show preference to the mother or the father in Florida. Florida court and public policy looks to provide the child access to both parents and both parents should share the responsibilities and joys of child-rearing.

Unless the court determines it would be harmful to the child, the court will order shared parental responsibility with both parents having as much contact with the child(ren) as possible.

Can My Ex Get Custody or Visitation if Abuse was Involved?

One of the most common concerns of parents who have been abused in a domestic relationship is whether their child(ren) will be forced to spend time with, or be made to live with, an abusive parent. The answer is, sometimes.

The judge always looks for “best interest.” If the spouse or domestic partner was convicted of domestic violence, meaning s/he was found guilty in a court of law, of a first degree misdemeanor or felony, and is serving time in prison, the judge will most likely decide visitation is not in the best interest of the child. However, the convicted parent is within his/her rights to present information to convince the judge otherwise.

In deciding parental involvement, custody, and time-sharing (visitation) the judge will consider evidence of domestic violence or child abuse even without a conviction or an injunction. Evidence of abuse is evidence of harm to the child in a custody situation.

If the judge does order visitation for the ex who committed the violence, you can request that it be supervised or limited. The judge will grant your request if s/he sees it as necessary to protecting your safety or that of the child(ren).

If you believe there are continuing risks to you or your child(ren) or if something occurs that places your health or that of your child’s in jeopardy, you can file an injunction for protection against domestic violence to keep you and your child(ren) safe.

Child custody is fairly cut-and-dry on behalf of the court. Without proof of a child’s safety or well-being in jeopardy, both parents will be required to be responsible for the child(ren). That’s why you need someone on your side that can help protect your rights and that of your child(ren). Dean Tsourakis has over 25 years of experience in law in the Clearwater area. Contact him today at 727-785-2700 for a free consultation.