Under Florida child custody laws, the court is responsible for determining the issues that pertain to child custody and shared parenting. These state laws deal with the legal and physical care of children whose parents are divorcing or those whose parents were never married. Florida child custody laws are designed to favor the best interests of a child, in accordance with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Florida child custody laws follow the public policy of the state, which favors a child’s frequent contact with both parents. In addition, these laws encourage shared parenting rights and responsibilities.In many divorce and paternity cases, parents share the responsibility for the care, custody, and control of a child.
Under Florida child custody laws, both parents must make all decisions regarding their child together. The law calls this “shared parenting” or “shared parental responsibility.” People sometimes refer to this situation as “joint custody,” but it is important to know the correct legal terminology. In a joint custody situation, you and your ex-spouse or ex-partner are expected to work out matters relating to your child (such as education, health, religion, activities, and other issues regarding the welfare of your child) together.
In some circumstances, the court may decide that sole parental responsibility should be awarded to one parent. This sole custody must be in the best interest of the child. It is usually reserved for situations involving abuse or neglect. Under Florida child custody laws, sole custody means that one parent has the sole responsibility and right to make all major decisions regarding a child without having to confer with the other parent. The court will still need to decide if it is in the child’s best interest to award the non-residential parent supervised or non-supervised visitation rights with the child.
Under current Florida child custody laws, each parent has the equal right to be designated the primary residential parent or custodian of a child. The primary residential parent is the parent with whom the child lives the majority of the time and the one who usually receives child support. The secondary residential parent is no less of a parent. The designation merely ignifies that the child spends less than the majority of time with that parent. The secondary residential parent has visitation and contact rights and usually pays child support to the other parent.During child custody proceedings, the court will consider a number of factors, to determine the best interest and welfare of the child, before granting primary and secondary residential custody. These factors may include the love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the parents and the child; the mental health, physical health, and morality of the parents; and—most important of all—which parent is more likely to allow contact between the child and the secondary residential parent.Florida law also allows, in limited situations, for rotating custody whereby the child spends equal time with both parents and neither parent is deemed the primary residential parent or custodian of the child. This framework is much trickier than it seems and is usually not favored by the courts. Many people going through a custody situation think that rotating custody is the answer when it is not really the best option for their family. It takes the help of a qualified family law attorney to help sort out this tricky area of the law. If you and your spouse reside in two different states, the custody case becomes more complicated. The State of Florida has implemented a version of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act into its Florida child custody laws. The law deters child custody controversy, discourages child kidnappings, and promotes cooperation and guidelines for custody disputes between states. The main purpose of this Act is to hold child custody proceedings in the home state of the child. It is important to know that removing a child either temporarily or permanently out of the State of Florida during custody proceedings may be a violation of Florida laws. Family law cases involving children can be very emotional and often lead to complicated disputes. Issues concerning sole and shared custody, primary and secondary residential parentage, and out of state custody procedures can get extremely complicated. If you or a loved one is in the process of a divorce or child custody proceedings, it is essential to seek the help of a qualified Florida family law attorney. An experienced attorney can clarify Florida child custody laws, file the proper paperwork, as well as help protect the legal rights of you and your children. Please contact us today to speak with Colleen White, an experienced Florida family law attorney.
Joint Legal Custody and Florida Laws. The courts show preference for shared parental responsibility (joint legal custody) in Florida Statute 1.13(2)(b)1: "It is the public policy of this state to assure that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or divorce, and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities and joys of child rearing. 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."...and in Florida Statute 61.13(2)(b): "The court shall order that the parental responsibility for a minor child be shared by both parents unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility (joint legal custody) would be detrimental to the child…" Factors which the court will consider include the following:
  • The parent who is more likely to allow the child frequent and continuing contact with the other parent.
  • The love, affection, and emotional ties existing between the parents and the child.
  • The capacity and ability to meet the child's material needs.
  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining stability.
  • The permanence, as a family unit, of the current or new custodial home.
  • Moral fitness of the parents.
  • 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.
Grandparents also have rights to visitation, if in the child's best interest. The court may award custody to grandparents. And, if the child is living with the grandparent in a stable relationship, the court may consider the grandparent to be as worthy of custody as the parents. Section 61.13(2)(b),(c).