Web Site modified August 2011 by Joanna Mitchell, Esq. - J Mitchell PA Inc. All rights reserved. - Web Design by afthd.com
Office Located in Central Florida, Lake County, Florida
All initial consultations are free!
So, please do not hesitate to contact us today, Call Now (352) 324-2444
Your Question Directly to An Attorney
What is custody?
Florida no longer has the concept of “custody”, except for in certain limited circumstances where a designation is required for State and Federal purposes (such as school zoning purposes). Having “Custody” of something denotes “possession of an object”, and children are not objects that one parent or the other possesses. Rather, Florida is guided by the concepts of “Shared Parenting” according to a “Parenting Plan” whereby the parents, even though they live separately, share the physical and financial responsibility, as well as the decision making responsibility for the child, with the best interest of the child being first and foremost always. Although the child may spend more time with one parent than the other, there is no longer the designation of “primary” vs. “secondary” parent.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A “Parenting Plan” is a document created to govern the relationship between the parents of the child relating to decisions that must be made regarding the minor child, as well as the time-sharing schedule for the parents and the child. Typically, the issues addressed in a Parenting Plan include the how decisions pertaining to the child are to be made, such as decisions regarding the child’s education, health care, extra-curricular activities, spiritual upbringing, social and emotional well-being, etc., as well as how time is shared between the parties (including holidays), who is responsible for transporting the child for timesharing purposes, how and where the exchange is done, whether both or either party can travel with the child out of State or out of the Country, which parent’s address is designated for school districting purposes, who is responsible for the costs of extra-curricular activities, how communication between the parties is conducted, how communication with the child or children is conducted, how child care providers are selected, what information pertaining to the children both parents are entitled to receive. The Parenting Plan is developed by and agreed to by the parents, and if the parents cannot agree, then the Court determines what the appropriate Parenting Plan should be.
How can I get sole custody of my child?
There is no longer “custody” in the State of Florida. However, there is “sole parental responsibility,” under very limited circumstances, which frequently includes supervised contact or, in extremely rare circumstances, no contact for the other parent. Typically, in order to obtain “sole parental responsibility” one party must prove that the other parent is somehow a danger to the child or that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child, which is extremely difficult to do, and typically would only happen in about 3% of the cases. For a person to be a danger to the child, they would generally have to be a multiple convicted violent felon, involved with child pornography, a child molester or sexual predator, violent alcoholic or drug addict, or have actually previously assaulted, harmed or otherwise have seriously neglected the minor child. And typically, only in the latter circumstance – where the parent has actually physically harmed the minor child previously – would that parent have no contact at all with the minor child. Generally, even in circumstances where one parent is not responsible enough or “fit” enough to have the child residing with them, they would still be entitled to “shared parental responsibility” and at least supervised timesharing or contact with the minor child.
What is the difference between “shared parental responsibility” and “sole parental responsibility”?
"Shared parental responsibility" means a court-ordered relationship in which both parents retain full parental rights and responsibilities with respect to their child and in which both parents confer with each other so that major decisions affecting the welfare of the child will be determined jointly. "Sole parental responsibility" means a court-ordered relationship in which one parent makes decisions regarding the minor child without needing to consult with the other parent.
What type of information is each parent entitled to, whether or not the child resides predominately with them?
Regardless of which parent the child or children spend the majority of time with, both parents, under the rules of Shared Parenting, retain full parental rights and responsibilities with respect to their child. This means that both parents retain the right to full access to medical and school records pertaining to the child(ren), and retain the independent right to consult with any and all doctors, school personnel, day care providers and other professionals involved with the child(ren), regarding the child’s physical, educational, emotional and social progress. Both parents are supposed to cooperate with each other in sharing information related to the health, education, and welfare of the child(ren) and are required to sign any necessary documentation ensuring that both parents have access to these records, and both parents are supposed to be listed as “emergency contacts” for the child(ren), even if one parent resides a significant distance away
How old does a child have to be in Florida in order to be able to decide which parent he or she wants to reside predominately with?
In Florida there is no set age when a child gets to decide where he or she wants to live. The reasonable preference of the child is ONE factor, out of about twenty two, that is considered in determining what timesharing arrangement is in the best interest of the minor child. The weight given to this factor depends on the age, intelligence and maturity of the minor child. So, the older and more mature the child is, the more weight the factor is given. That said, typically fourteen years or less, the factor has very little consideration. And the closer to eighteen, the more consideration it is given. Regardless though, unless the child is on the verge of turning eighteen, if the other factors do not support the child residing predominately with that parent, the Judge typically will not Order it.
What is supervised timesharing?
Supervised timesharing is when a parent is supervised by a third party at all times when they are spending time with their child. Sometimes this is facilitated through an organization, such as the Salvation Army, Family Focus or Family Ties, and sometimes this is facilitated through an agreed upon individual that both parties trust. This allows a parent who may potentially pose a threat of danger, harm or neglect to the child to still spend time with the child under closely monitored circumstances so that the interest of the child is protected at all times. Typically, supervised timesharing is only ordered in cases where one parent may pose a danger to the child if they have unsupervised timesharing with the child, such as if they were a multiple convicted felon, an alcoholic or drug addict, had a documented history of domestic violence or child neglect, or had otherwise previously neglected or abused the child while in their care.
Your Question Directly to An Attorney
Your Question Directly to An Attorney