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Florida Child Custody
Child Custody in Florida

According to Florida Title VI, Ch, 61, Section 61.13 et seq., "the court shall determine all matters relating to child custody of each minor child of the parties in accordance with the best interests of the child and in accordance with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act."

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act in Florida states that the goal of child custody is frequent contact with the child for both parents. Every attempt is made for parents to share responsibility.

Mandatory Parenting Class

Florida courts require all divorcing parents with minor children to complete a mandatory parenting class before granting a divorce. This requirement is designed to help parents and children deal with the trauma of divorce and separation. Unless the court grants a waiver, both parents must complete this requirement. Rather than give up an afternoon or evening taking your course in a crowded classroom, you can fulfill this requirement conveniently online at a very reasonable cost. We recommend you take Children in Between Online" to fulfill your court requirement and for the benefit of your children.

Best Interest Test

In child custody decisions, Florida courts focus on the best interest of the children. The court decides custody issues on what it believes the child requires, not on what the parents desire. Courts can look at any factor that affects the health and well being of a child and make rulings to ensure the child's best interests.

Custody

Florida law establishes two kinds of child custody: legal and physical. Legal custody is the right for a parent or guardian to make decisions about how the child is raised, for example, the kind of education the child receives, the religion he or she has, and the health care he or she receives.

Physical custody determines where the child lives. Courts can award physical custody to one parent or another, or decide parents should share such custody. Even if courts decide to grant sole physical custody to one party, that does not mean the other parent is precluded from legal custody or child visitation.

Rotating custody happens when children spend equal amounts of time with both parents. Florida courts do not encourage this routine because it is not believed to be in the best interest of children.

Parenting Plans

In Florida, parents must write a parenting plan wherever child custody is an issue. These plans spell out the terms and condition of shared parenting. Typically, courts are reluctant to grant sole physical or legal custody to either parent unless significant factors are present. The preference to allow both parents visitation and custody rights usually means the parenting plan does not provide for sole custody.

Preferential Treatment Towards Mothers

Child custody laws in Florida are gender neutral. After considering all relevant facts, the father of the child shall be given the same consideration as the mother in determining the primary residence of a child irrespective of the age or sex of the child.

Shared Custody Preference

Florida law expresses a preference for parents to share as equally as possible in the custody of a child in a divorce case. The court determines custody issues for a child of the parties guided by the best interest principle and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

Florida does not have "joint" custody; instead Florida law mandates "shared" custody. In shared custody, parents are required to work together to make decisions for the child and neither parent has more leverage in these decisions than the other.

Unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility is detrimental to the child, the court orders that both parents share that parental responsibility.

If one parent is deemed unfit to share custody, sole custody may be granted to the other parent. The court orders "sole parental responsibility," with or without visitation rights, to the other parent when it is in the best interests of the minor child. In ordering shared parental responsibility, the court may consider the expressed desires of the parents and may grant to one party the ultimate responsibility over specific aspects of the child's welfare or may divide those responsibilities between the parties based on the best interests of the child. The court may order rotating custody if the court finds that rotating custody will be in the best interest of the child.

According to Florida Statutes 61.121 and 61.113, the "best interests of the child" requires an evaluation of all factors affecting the welfare and interests of the child, including, but not limited to:

  • the parent who is more likely to allow the child frequent and continuing contact with the nonresidential parent;
  • the love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parents and the child;
  • the capacity and disposition of the parents to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care or other remedial care recognized and permitted under the laws of this state in lieu of medical care, and other material needs;
  • the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity;
  • the permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home;
  • the moral fitness of the parents;
  • the mental and physical health of the parents;
  • the home, school, and community record of the child;
  • the reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference;
  • the willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent;
  • evidence that any party has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding a domestic violence proceeding pursuant to s. 741.30;
  • evidence of domestic violence or child abuse; and
  • any other fact considered by the court to be relevant.

Parental Conduct

In addition to finding a parent unfit because of substance abuse or abuse or neglect towards a child, the courts also consider the conduct of both parents during the course of the marriage, and the impact of parental behavior on the child. Evidence of domestic violence or child abuse is a consideration in establishing custody.

The record of domestic violence is one of the key factors in determining whether to award sole custody to a parent. In these cases Florida courts appoint a guardian ad litem, a person whose sole job it is to look after the best interests of the child. The guardian ad litem reports directly to the court.

Visitation

The Florida courts have full discretion when determining visitation between children and parents. The courts can establish visitation between one or more parent, even if both parents agreed upon a no-visitation policy.

When one parent receives sole custody, the other parent enjoys visitation rights. The judge determines whether this visitation with be supervised or unsupervised.

Visitation rights do no confer decision-making rights.

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