Shared Child Custody in Florida: Exploring Your Options

Exploring Child Custody Options

If you have children and you’re going through a divorce, one of your first thoughts is probably where they will live. But custody is about much more than where the child lives and how often both parents see him/her. A parenting plan includes all of that plus who is able to make decisions on behalf of the child and to what degree they need sign-off from the other parent.

Florida courts lean towards encouraging involvement of both parents. It sees this as (most often) being in the “best interest of the child,” the guiding factor used in answering questions of custody and timesharing. Here is what you can expect with Florida courts and custody.

Sole/Full Custody

Florida courts rarely see this in the best interest of the child. Sole, or full custody generally awards the custodial parent with all of the decision-making authority when it comes to the child(ren), which may include being able to restrict overnight visitation and establishing supervised visitation (by working with the court). Sole custody does not allow the custodial parent to forbid the non-custodial parent to see the child. Even with sole custody there is usually (again, with the exception of extreme cases) a visitation schedule established.

Being awarded sole custody is not unheard of but it’s becoming harder and harder as the courts try to get both parents actively involved in raising and spending time with their children. To be awarded sole custody one will have to prove the other parent is unfit in some way, such as having an addiction or mental illness, that makes it impossible to care for the child(ren).  

If you are seeking sole custody expect to have urgent and provable examples of why the other parent is unfit. You’ll also need a skilled attorney on your side. Unrepresented parents are rarely granted sole custody in today’s Florida courts.

Shared Custody

Shared custody encompasses all forms of non-full custody in the decision-making process for the child. It could be very limited in its allowances or very liberal, as in the case of equal timesharing, but all shared custody agreements begin with the parenting plan.

Court-Designed Parenting Plans

If you’re going through a divorce with children, you will need a parenting plan The court prefers for parents to draft it, but it will step in when necessary. When it does, the court will look at your family and make custody decision based on things like:

  • How far away the parents currently live from one another (less than, or greater than 50 miles?)
  • Has one of the parents ever exhibited violence to a spouse or child?
  • Has a parent hurt a pet or damaged property out of anger?
  • Has a parent suffered from depression to the point of neglecting him/herself or the children?
  • Does anyone in the household abuse drugs or alcohol?
  • Does either parent have a protection order or arrest record?

Self-Designed Parenting Plan

The court will generally agree on a parenting plan drawn up by the parents as long as it is reasonable, does not stray too far from court requirements, and is agreed upon by both parents. There are a number of ways parenting plans can be designed from rotating schedules to designated days and holidays. Select what you and your ex want for the long term.

However, there’s more to deciding a parenting plan than which parent gets Tuesday night. Depending on your children’s ages, what is in the best interest of the children today may not work in the future as they age and their schedules become vastly different. For that reason it’s essential to work with an attorney to flesh out possibilities and add in stipulations about when the case can be reopened.

It’s also important to understand that once you and your ex agree to a parenting plan, and it’s established by the courts, it’s difficult to reopen or make changes to it if you don’t have the appropriate wording to begin with. The court will always lean on what’s in the best interest of the child(ren). This can sometimes be in opposition to what parents want. A skilled family attorney can help you understand what that could mean for you in areas of your life like moving out of town or changing the decision-making process you use on something as critical as the child’s education.

If you want to know more about shared child custody Contact him todayThe initial consultation is free.