Child Custody in Florida

When a married person decides to obtain a divorce and the couple has children, the family court will decide issues of custody. In Florida, there are two main types of custody, physical and legal. This post provides basic principles regarding custody to inform and prepare a parent entering into a family law case involving children.

Physical Custody

Physical custody entails with which parent the child will live. Physical custody can be shared between the parents, particularly if the parents live close enough to each other. For instance, the child may spend 4 nights a week with mom and 3 nights a week with dad. If the child lives for a certain amount of time at both parents’ homes, then physical custody is joint.

On the other hand, physical custody can be sole; the child physically lives exclusively with only one parent. The bases and reasons for sole custody are discussed more thoroughly in this post below.

Legal Custody

Legal custody entails which parents will make legal decisions for the child, such as those decisions pertaining to health care, education, and general upbringing. Generally, the court will order joint legal custody to both parents, even if only one parent is granted sole physical custody.

Timesharing

As mentioned above, the court may order one parent to have sole physical custody, with the other parent having timesharing. Timesharing may be ordered if the parents live too far apart, making joint physical custody impracticable and prohibitive given travel times and costs. Another situation that unfortunately arises all too frequently is where one parent is unfit for physical custody due to drug or alcohol use or in cases of domestic violence. In these situations, the court may order supervised timesharing. In cases of supervised timesharing, the parent with the drug or alcohol issue or history of committing domestic violence is allowed to visit with the child in the presence of either an independent third party or a person upon whom the couple agrees, such as a grandparent or close family friend.

Legal Principles

As a state, Florida has taken the position that it is generally in the best interests of the child to maintain a relationship with both parents. (Florida Statutes, § 61.13(2)(c)(1)). Under Florida law, the court is to order joint legal custody, “unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child.” (Florida Statutes, § 61.13(2)(c)(2)). If one parent has been convicted of domestic violence, this creates a “rebuttable presumption” that the parent is unfit for custody.

In ordering any parenting plan, custody, or timesharing, the court will consider the wishes of the parents, the financial stability of the parents, the mental fitness of the parents, any history of domestic violence, any history of drug or alcohol use and/or abuse, any history of physical or mental abuse, and the overall ability of the parents to provide a stable, healthy, loving environment for the child.

Speak with a Family Law Attorney Now

In our experience, divorces involving children can become exceptionally heated and contentious. If you are interested in seeking a divorce or have been served with divorce papers, you should immediately contact Bubley & Bubley, P.A. to help you. Our Tampa family law attorneys have the experience needed to fully represent you in your family law case.

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