You probably have heard of child custody in the context of a divorce or dispute between unmarried parents that both want to be part of their child’s life. While child custody is still discussed by parents, lawyers, and judges alike, Florida law has done away with child custody and replaced with the terms parental responsibility and time-sharing.
Specifically, legal custody, which was the right to make important decisions about the way that a child is raised, in now referred to as parental responsibility, which can be shared or ordered solely to one parent. Physical custody, which is the time actually spend with a child, is now described as part of a time-sharing arrangement.
Florida law requires courts to make decisions regarding time-sharing and parental responsibility in accordance with the best interests of the child. Courts will order shared parental responsibility unless they determine that doing so would be detrimental to the child. In addition, there is a rebuttable presumption that shared responsibility will be detrimental to the child if one of the parents has been convicted of a misdemeanor of the first degree or higher involving domestic violence. If the presumption is not rebutted, the court may not award time-sharing or parental responsibility to the parent with the conviction on his or her record.
Some of the factors that Florida courts consider when determining a child’s best interests include the following:
While courts have the final say regarding child custody matters, they do take the wishes of the parents into account. In every case in which time-sharing is at issue, parents are required to submit a parenting plan that addresses the way in which they wish to allocate parental rights and responsibilities.
In cases where the parents agree on the parenting plan, courts often approve the proposed parenting plan without any changes. As a result, it is often in both parents’ best interests to agree on a plan before going to court, and the assistance of legal counsel can help facilitate a negotiated plan that is acceptable to all parties.
Anyone involved in a child custody dispute should retain an experienced lawyer immediately. A child custody lawyer can help you present your case in the strongest light possible and maximize the chances that you will obtain a favorable result in your case. To schedule a consultation with one of our family law attorneys, call the Dolman Law Group today or contact us online.