6 Most Common Questions About Child Custody

Six Common Questions about Child Custody

Everything You Need to Know about Custody Negotiation

One of the most stressful aspects of a separation or divorce is how it affects children. The state of Florida always encourages parents to put aside any differences and do what is best for the child. As parents, there can be a lot of questions and concerns that arise regarding your children.

At LaFrance Law, we have been helping families develop and execute effective child custody agreements for over 20 years. To help you navigate the regulations set by the state of Florida here are some of the most common questions we hear.

1. How is Custody Determined?

During an uncontested divorce, parents will need to come to an agreement regarding time sharing and decision making. Since these decisions are made without the aid of the Florida court system, this parenting plan must still be submitted in writing for official approval.

If a parenting plan cannot be agreed upon, the court will step in to assist with the process by determining what will be in the best interests of the child based on state statute 61.13. Evidence can be submitted through personal testimony or witness testimony by family, friends, teachers, etc. This evidence can be used to demonstrate why a particular statutory factor favors one parent over another.  Parents are also able to secure the services of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) who will interview and observe the family, witnesses and even the child (if they are old enough) and make a recommendation to the court regarding custody.

2. Can I Get Primary Custody?

The state of Florida no longer assigns primary or secondary custody and refers to custody as time sharing. Usually, time sharing is split 50/50, but if the parents cannot agree or the courts find that equal time sharing is not in the child’s best interest one parent can be granted majority time sharing (anything over 50%).

3. What is the Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a document created to establish guidelines and rules regarding time sharing for each parent during the school year, holidays and summer vacation. This plan also establishes how both minor and major decisions regarding anything from health to schooling for the child are made. Even when a parent has sole parental responsibility, they may still have to consult with the other parent but will still make the final decision on their own.

4. How Much Child Support Will I Have to Pay?

Because Florida does not assign primary custody, determining child support is based on the combined income of both parents and the number of children as defined by Florida statute 61.30. Each parent’s share of the total support obligation is based upon how much of their respective income accounts for the combined net income.

Calculating Child Support (Example)
For instance, the Father is earning 65% of the combined net income and the total support obligation is $1,000, the Father’s basic support obligation is $650 and the Mother’s is $350.

Each parent also has an obligation to contribute to the health insurance cost to cover the children and to contribute to any daycare expense and unreimbursed medical expenses. These expenses are generally split per the parent’s respective pro-rata share of the combined net income. Once the basic obligation of each parent is determined, consideration must be given to the impact of time-sharing. If a parent has at least 20% of the overnight time-sharing with the children during the year, then that time-sharing percentage must be factored into the calculation of the support.

5. Is Custody Affected if I’m in the Military?

Even when there is a parenting plan and time sharing schedule, having one or both parents in the military can complicate these agreements. In 2008, House Bill 435 was passed to provide “active, deployed or temporarily assigned to military service” parents options to temporarily assign another person to act on their behalf in regards to the child. The Bill also makes it difficult for the families of service members to modify an existing time sharing order without “clear and convincing” evidence that a change is in the best interest of the child.

6. Can I Move My Child Out of the State of Florida if I Share Custody?

If you are looking to make a move that is more than 50 miles away for more than 60 days, you must not only inform the other parent but also get consent to make the move. If both parents agree to the relocation it must be recorded in writing with any modifications to the parenting plan and time sharing schedule included. If the parent who is staying in Florida does not agree a petition can be submitted that outlines why and where you want to move with updates to previous agreements. The courts will then evaluate the information and decide based on the best interests of the child.