Decisions on child custody in Florida are usually based on a standard known as the “best interests of the child.” The laws in Florida, specifically Section 61.13 Florida Statutes, recognize that it is best if children maintain contact with both of their parents and that both parents should participate in making decisions for their child after the divorce or after the couple breaks up. A Florida family law judge will be guided by a number of factors that are relevant to parenting when determining child custody in Florida. These main factors can be grouped into a number of categories and none are necessarily deal breakers one way or the other, but the compilation of them all gives the judge an overall picture of the situation he is dealing with. Because your child’s fate rests in the hands of a judge that does not know you or the child’s other parent, it is best to seek the help of an experienced Florida child custody attorney to fight on your behalf.
Florida Child Custody: Safety and Health of the Child
The first category of the above mentioned factors that determine a Florida child custody case has to do with the child’s safety and health. The court will not award custody or time-sharing rights if they find that doing so will harm the child. Therefore, if there is evidence of domestic or sexual abuse against one parent, they may lose their visitation or custody case. The parent may also lose their rights if there is evidence of child abandonment, child abuse or child neglect. Other factors that could be considered in this category include the mental and physical health of the parents as well as evidence of substance abuse in either parent’s home. If you know that your child is around a dangerous parent because of drug abuse or physical abuse, contact the police and one of our Florida family law attorneys right away and save your child.
Florida Child Custody: Needs of the Child
The second category a Florida family law court looks at when determining child custody decisions has to do with the developmental and environmental needs of the child. The court expects the parents to always put the needs and well-being of their child before their own. The judge will assess how each parent has demonstrated their desire to satisfy their child’s emotional and developmental needs, as well as their desire to be part of their child’s life.
While assessing whether the child’s developmental and environmental needs will be met, the court will consider whether each parent is able to provide the child with a normal routine. The court always favors an arrangement that will foster stability while minimizing disruptions. They will therefore consider the geographical viability of the arrangement and how much travel will be required between the two parents’ homes, especially if the children are young. In some cases, the children may be old enough to make independent decisions, and the judge may allow them to choose which arrangement they prefer. This is rare, and no matter what a child says, the ultimate decision rests with the judge.
Florida Child Custody: Ability to Co-Parent
The third category a Florida family law court will consider has to do with each parent’s communication and co-parenting skills. In Florida, the courts strongly emphasize that the parents should encourage their child to have a positive relationship with the other parent. The judge evaluates the willingness of each parent to honor the time-sharing arrangement, and their readiness to make adjustments. The judge also evaluates whether the parents are able to communicate properly with each other, whether they are willing to keep the other parent informed about every issue that affects the child, and whether they are ready to remain united on major issues that affect their child. The court expects the parents to protect their child from the strain of a divorce, and this includes refraining from speaking ill about the other parent while the child is listening.
The Moral Fitness of Each Parent
The court will assess the moral fitness of each parent when determining the best interests of the child. This refers to situations that could affect the child’s ethical and moral development. For example, the court could deny child custody in Florida to a parent who is struggling with substance abuse. The court will not consider adultery in a marriage unless this behavior negatively affected the child, such as a revolving door of sexual partners by one parent.
Legal Custody vs. Physical Custody in Florida
Custody options in Florida include legal custody and physical custody. Florida family law courts favor joint legal custody unless there is proof that this will somehow damage the child. The parents can discuss how to divide responsibilities on issues dealing with healthcare, education and the child’s welfare; as long as the child’s best interests are considered. The court can decide to grant sole legal custody to one parent with or without visitation from the other parent. They can also choose to grant joint legal custody, but to give one parent primary physical custody – this is the most common situation.
The law requires that parents who are involved in time sharing should write down a parenting plan. This is commonly called a “Custody Judgment” or a Parenting Agreement.” For the court to approve this plan, it should designate responsibility for education and healthcare. It should also outline the time-sharing schedule, as well as how each parent intends to share responsibility for the various parenting tasks. A Florida parenting plan should include a designated address for the child’s school registration as well as other activities. It should also specify all the methods and technologies that the parents intend to use to communicate with the child. An experienced attorney can give parents the Florida child custody help and advice they need so that they can understand the confusing custody laws in Florida.
Florida Relocation Laws and Child Custody
Child relocation laws in Florida, guided by statute (Section 61.13001 Florida Statutes), always first consider the best interests of the child. In the case of a parent who has primary physical custody and desires to move with the child to a location that is more than fifty miles away for a period of more than sixty days, they must first inform the other parent. If the other parent accepts the move, both parents should submit a written agreement to the court. If the other parent disagrees with the move, a judge will hold a hearing to decide whether to allow it. If the judge concludes that the move will negatively affect the child or the relationship between the child and the other parent, they will not approve it. This process is commonly referred to as “removal”, as it is the removing of the child from the state of Florida or the nearby areas that makes visitation difficult for the other parent.
If both parents agree to the move, the court requires them to file a written agreement that includes the non-custodial parent’s written consent, proposals to change the time-sharing schedule, as well as any transportation arrangements that the parents have in order to make visitation possible. The child relocation laws in Florida also require the consent of other people who have visitation rights, such as the grandparents, although their rights are secondary to those of the parents.
The parent who is moving away may request that the other parent gets a longer visitation period. It is important to remember that even though both parents may agree on the move, the court still has to give its consent. The custodial parent could try to gain the favor of the court by granting the non-custodial parent extended visitation time during spring breaks or the summer season. This is common to removal cases.
If one parent objects to the move, the child relocation laws in Florida require the moving parent to file a relocation petition with the court. The petition should include details such as the physical location of the new home, as well as the mailing address and the telephone number, when the move will take place, the particular reasons for the move as well as the proposed visitation and parenting schedules after the relocation. The court also requires the moving parent to provide the other parent with a notice that tells them how to object to the petition and the consequences of failing to object.
If the non-custodial parent does not respond to the petition, the court will assume that the relocation is in the best interests of the child. If the non-custodial parent objects to the petition, the court will arrange for a hearing or a trial to help settle the matter.
Factors Relevant to Child Relocation Matters in Florida
There are a number of factors that the court will consider during the hearing to decide whether the relocation should be permitted or not. If moving away will be traumatic for the child because they will be away from family and friends, the court will, many times, not allow the custodial parent to move with the child. Therefore, the parent who wishes to relocate with the child must convince the court that moving will have a positive effect on the child.
One of the factors that the judge considers is the relationship between the child and the custodial parent, the other parent, friends, family, siblings and other important people who the child will leave behind. They also consider the physical, mental and emotional development of the child, as well as their age and any special needs that they have. The court evaluates whether the relationship of the child and the non-custodial parent can be preserved even after the move. The relocation has to be able to enhance the life of both the parent and the child for it to be approved.
The reasons for the relocation are also considered in Florida child relocation cases. Moving away in order to obtain significantly better employment opportunities or better education for the child are great reasons. However, if the custodial parent is moving in order to punish or exert revenge on their ex-spouse, the court will not allow it. The court also considers the reasons why the non-custodial parent is objecting to the move. The court will not favor them if they are objecting to the move but have been unable to meet their obligations and to exercise their existing parenting time with the child.
If the child is old enough to decide for themselves, the judge will take their considerations into account. If the child is young and the parents do not agree on the relocation, they will both need help from lawyers who understand child relocation laws in Florida. The non-custodial parent usually has a short time to object to the petition to relocate, and they have to be prepared for a hearing. Their relationship with their child may suffer if the custodial parent relocates with the child, therefore, the non-custodial parent should hire a Florida child custody lawyer who will help them with their case.
Florida Child Custody Help and Advice
Getting the Florida child custody help and advice you deserve is as easy as filling out the form on this site or picking up the phone and giving us a call. Our team of Florida family law attorneys will fight for your child custody rights. Don’t leave a decision this important to chance – get help from a proven winner, a true professional, speak to a Florida child custody attorney today!
Additional Florida Information
- Florida Divorce Help and Attorney Advice Center
- Florida Fathers Rights Help and Advice
- Florida Child Custody Help and Advice
- Free Florida Family Law Case Evaluation