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Child Custody in Florida

Your children are the most important and vulnerable members of your family. It is of the utmost importance that they be fully protected emotionally and financially during the divorce process. The term "custody" is no longer in use. As of October 1st 2009 the laws of Florida were drastically changed regarding how the courts deal with parenting issues in a divorce. The law requires that the court develop a "Parenting Plan" which includes a schedule which allocates the time the children will spend with each parent. Additionally, the plan needs to include an outline of which parent will be responsible for many parenting activities including:

  • Daily tasks
  • Healthcare
  • School functions
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Communication with the children

In creating this Parenting Plan the court is always guided by the best interests of the children and not be the needs and/or wants of the parent which are sometimes selfishly driven. For example, sometimes a parent requests time with the children simply to deprive the other parent of that time. If the overnight time with the children equals 40% or more on an annual basis child support is greatly reduced. This may be the reason for a request to have 40% or more of the time with the children. On the other hand the law recognizes that both parents have equal rights to spend time with the children. Long ago there was a preference towards mothers to have "custody" of the children especially when they were young. That presumption has been abolished. The court is required to consider a number of factors when deciding this issue including:

  • Length of time the child has lived in a stable environment and the desire to maintain continuity;
  • Moral fitness, mental health and physical health of the parents;
  • The ability of each parent to maintain a stable routine for the child;
  • The presence of domestic violence;
  • The ability of each parent to meet the developmental needs of the child;
  • The likelihood of each parent to permit, and not interfere, with the contact and access rights of the other parent.

There are many other facets and factors to consider when dealing with issues of this sort. If it is possible to resolve custody by agreement it is likely the judge would approve the agreement which avoids court over these issues. You should consult with a family law expert to assist you in dealing with these important issues.

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