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How Is Custody Determined in Florida?

When going through a divorce or a child custody hearing, you will want to have a good understanding of how the courts will determine custody. In Florida, when attempting to set the custody of a child, the core goal is to always do what is in the best interests of the child. What that means in practice will change from case to case based on the unique situations that people are in. There are some guidelines and laws in place that help the courts to determine what is in the best interests of a child, and it is good to have an understanding of these when going through a custody case.

Shared vs Sole Parental Responsibility

The courts will decide whether the parents should have shared parental responsibility, or if one parent should have sole parental responsibility. The parental responsibility terms have replaced terms such as custody or visitation in order to better reflect the role each parent will play. When the two parents are given shared parental responsibility, they will both have to agree on making parenting decisions such as where the child goes to school, who their doctor is, and much more. If one parent is awarded sole parental responsibility, then that parent will be able to make all of these decisions on their own. Courts can also award shared parental responsibility with sole decision making if appropriate.

In the state of Florida, shared parental responsibility is the default arrangement that the courts are instructed to favor. If one parent wants to have sole parental responsibility, they need to be able to show why that is in the best interests of the child. If this cannot be shown, then the courts will rule in favor of shared responsibility.

Determining Where the Child Will Live

In addition to determining how can make important decisions for the child, the courts will also have to determine where the child will spend their time. In the past, this was often referred to as parenting time or visitation time. The courts will take many factors into account when determining a time-sharing schedule. These factors may include things like the child’s school schedule, the parent’s work schedule, where each parent is living, and more.

Whenever possible, the two parents should attempt to come up with a schedule that will work out well for themselves as well as the child. The time sharing can be done in almost any way that can be shown to be in the best interests of the child including every other day, every other week, splitting weeks in half, or other arrangements. Whether the parents create the schedule, or the courts have to step in, it is important for all time sharing agreements to be as detailed as possible to help avoid future confusion or confrontation.

It is also important to note that the courts will favor arrangements that have the child spending as much time as possible with each parent. If the child has to go to a grandparents’ house regularly when they are with the mother, for example, the courts may step in and award that time to the father.

Get Help Navigating Complex Child Custody Arrangements

Even child custody cases where both parents are being civil and reasonable can be quite complex. It is important to make sure that you get the legal help you need to protect your rights and the rights of your children. Contact Petkovich Law Firm to schedule a consultation today.


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