6 Most 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 Child Custody Determined in Florida?
A guiding principle for the judge when deciding custody issues is keeping the “best interests” of the child in mind.
During an uncontested divorce, parents will need to come to an agreement regarding time-sharing and decision-making. The agreement between parents will then be written down into a parenting plan. 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. 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. What is a 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.
3. Is Florida a 50/50 Child Custody State?
Yes. In the state of Florida, there is no longer “primary and secondary” custody, but rather the concept of time sharing. Time-sharing is usually 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%).
4. How is Child Support Calculated in Florida?
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 on how much of their respective income accounts for the combined net income.
Having one or both parents in the military can complicate parenting plans and time-sharing scheduled agreements. Going through a military divorce can have an impact on child custody decisions. 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 regard 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.
In Florida, judges will assume that parents are able to share custody unless there would be a negative impact on the life of the child. This means that the judge will take a look at each parent’s relationship with the child to ensure that the decision is made based on the “best interests” of the child. If there’s any conviction of domestic violence, then a judge would presume that it would not be in the best interest of the child to grant the parent visitation or custody rights. If there is no conviction, then the judge would still analyze any evidence of domestic violence presented during the case.
Ability to Support Child
The court is required to take a look at parents’ ability to properly support their children. If a child is in a stable household, then it is more likely that the court will keep the child in that household. A stable environment means that there are not a lot of changes being made. Stability is an important factor in a child’s life because of the number of changes that happen during a divorce. The number of changes can have an impact on a child’s life. A stable household isn’t determined based on expensive furniture is gourmet meals, but rather on the ability to provide for the child. A clean and organized environment with nutritious meals can indicate that the child is in good hands.
When taking a look at the”best interest” of the child, some judges may look to ask what the child prefers. Depending on the child’s age, they could have a say in where they prefer to live. The younger the child, the more likely they could be influenced by their parents on what to ask when being asked. Older children could have the ability to speak about their opinion on what they feel would be best for them.
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 without 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.