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Family - Custody

We can help you develop a parenting plan that protects the relationship you cherish most - that of parent and child. We help families with modification of custody and parenting plans and with sensitive move-away situations.

Florida courts have a strong and distinct interest in making sure that children of divorce and separation have frequent and meaningful contact with both parents. So the parents are both encouraged to continue sharing in the responsibilities and joys that come with raising a child. There are a number of tools that modern courts use to achieve their goals. Those tools include: Shared Parental Responsibility, Sole Parental Responsibility and Rotating Custody.

Shared Parental Responsibility is the parenting arrangement that Florida courts favor the most. One parent will be designated the primary residential parent. This is the parent that the child lives with most of the time. The other parent (often called the nonresidential parent) spends time with the child as agreed to by the parties or determined by the court. But it is important to remember that each parent has an equal say when it comes to making important decisions that affect the children such as healthcare, education, etc.

With Sole Parental Responsibility, there is a presumption in Florida that this type of arrangement is not in the best interests of children because one parent alone will be given the exclusive right and responsibility to make the important decisions discussed above. Sole Parental Responsibility generally will not be awarded unless the court believes that one of the parents is unfit to make decisions affecting the children.

Under the Rotating Custody arrangement, a child spends a determined amount of time living with each parent at his or her respective homes. The parents work together to make major decisions. This sort of arrangement is still somewhat rare but it is possible if a court believes it is in the best interests of the child.

There are many factors that influence Custody and Visitation. Florida law lays out several helpful factors that courts can consider when they have to make often-difficult decisions regarding custody of and access to children. Among these factors are:

  • The parent who is more likely to allow the child frequent and continuing contact with the non-custodial parent (the parties are encouraged to facilitate the child's relationship with both parents)
  • The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parents and the child (the court must determine where the best interests of the children lies and will act accordingly)
  • The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home (all things being equal, courts generally favor a more stable environment for children of divorce or separation)
  • The moral fitness of the parents
  • The mental and physical health of the parent
  • Evidence of domestic violence or child abuse
  • Any other factor that the court considers to be relevant

Courts will usually order that both parents share parental responsibility for children unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise.