In Florida, a custody arrangement is determined based on many factors, all of them centered on the child’s best interest. Custody law in Florida doesn’t give preference to mothers or fathers; custody depends on each unique case’s specific facts. Whether the parents are divorcing or were never married, the court will issue a parenting plan. And while a family attorney is not required, it’s beneficial to have an experienced child custody lawyer to help you navigate this complicated process.
- How is custody determined in Florida? When parents cannot reach an agreement on a child’s custody, a judge will determine the parenting plan in the child’s best interest. Many factors will be considered, including the child’s relationship with both parents, special needs, any history of domestic violence, each parent’s willingness and ability to put the child’s needs first, and the parents’ moral fitness. The child’s home, school, and community records are considered, and each parent’s capacity and disposition to be involved in the child’s activities. And while the child’s preference cannot be the sole factor in determining custody, it is something the judge will consider.
- What is a parenting plan? This is a plan outlining how the parents will share responsibility for the child. It will detail decision-making authority, the time the child will spend with each parent, and designating who is responsible for school-related matters, health care, and extra-curricular activities. Parenting plans are not one-size-fits-all but are determined based on the family’s specific needs. Time-sharing schedules, too, can vary.
- Does the court really need to be involved? If the parents agree on a parenting plan on their own, it will speed the court process. This is known as an uncontested custody case, and in these cases, the judge typically ratifies the agreement. The only reason a judge might interfere with an uncontested custody agreement is if it conflicts with Florida’s custody law.
- Can a parenting plan be modified? If there’s an unexpected change in your circumstances, the court may agree to modify the parenting plan. This will only be done, however, if it’s in the best interest of the child. Modifications are considered on a case by case basis, so if you feel a substantial change has occurred that warrants a change to the plan, it’s wise to engage a child custody attorney to help you prove your case.