Child Custody in Florida


When parents decide to separate or divorce, the children involved may experience a traumatic reaction to the new adjustment. Child custody laws in the state of Florida aim to uphold the child’s interest so that he/she is able to properly grow and develop. A family divorce lawyer can help you understand child custody and its implications in the state of Florida.

Florida Child Custody Law

Child custody refers to the total care of a child. Florida Child Custody laws are established to help with dictating which parent will obtain legal and physical custody over a child. Legal custody refers to a parent’s ability to make executive decisions for the child, such as the child’s educational, medical, and religious decisions. The legal custodial parent may also establish how the child shall be disciplined in order to instill positive character traits. Meanwhile, parents with physical custody reside with the child in the same home.

Sole Custody vs. Joint Custody

Florida Child Custody laws address both sole custody and joint custody. Sole custody allows one parent to have both legal and physical custody over the child. In order to obtain sole custody over a child, custody hearings are required. Evidence must be presented that supports that sole custody is needed. This is often done through clear proof of the following:

  • The other parent is incarcerated or otherwise unable to be in the child’s life.
  • The other parent does not desire to take care of the child.
  • The other parent has an alcohol/drug addiction and/or substance abuse problem.
  • The other parent has a history of abuse and/or domestic violence.
  • The other parent is an inefficient communicator and/or teamplayer.

It is best to allow a divorce attorney in Gainesville, FL, to help you if you are serious about obtaining sole custody over a child as it is not an easy process in Florida, where courts prefer time-sharing arrangements.

Joint custody, on the other hand, permits both parents to have shared responsibility over the child. This typically allows one parent to be assigned as the primary joint custodian. The child will spend most of his/her time in the home and care of the primary joint custodian. The secondary joint custodian is then given visitation rights and/or time sharing benefits to maintain a strong presence in the child’s life. He/she is also able to make governing decisions for the child.

Benefits of Joint Custody

Joint custody is the most favorable form of child custody for both children and parents. By allowing both parents to be a part of the decision making for the child’s growth and development, parents are forced to cooperate with each other. Further, children are able to spend consistent time with both parents, which lessens the impact of the divorce and/or separation.

Common Child Custody Issues

The most common issues regarding child custody are the result of disobedience and/or failure of one parent to adhere to terms and conditions of the child custody agreement. A parent may refuse to grant the child time with the other child (or overextend time with the child); limit telephone conversations and/or contact of the child with the other parent; or visit with the child during times that are specified for the other parent. Such actions can have detrimental effects on the child because it disrupts the child’s routine.

In most cases, parents are able to work cooperatively with each other to create a parenting plan that meets the needs of the child. However, when conflict and/or issues arise, family courts may intervene. Parents may wish to gain a child custody evaluation for expert suggestions on raising the child that is suitable to their unique needs. Divorce lawyers may be able to assist you in selecting a child custody evaluator, or generally help you map out a feasible plan.

Child Custody Lawyers in Gainesville, FL

Family law in Gainesville, FL, is much easier to understand with the assistance of qualified family and divorce lawyers. At the Law Office of Silverman, Mack & Associates, our attorneys can help you understand child custody laws and establish the most suitable child custody and visitation arrangement for your family.

Just like you, we want the best interests of your child to be upheld. Contact our divorce lawyers in Gainesville, FL, today for a free initial consultation.

Florida Child Custody FAQs

What is custody, time sharing and visitation? How are they different?

Custody refers to the guardianship, maintenance and daily care of a child. A time-sharing schedule is usually developed to ensure that both parents have equal time and access to a child. Visitation allows noncustodial parents to spend time with their child after a separation or divorce.

Is a lawyer necessary to determine child custody?

While a lawyer may not be required for child custody determination, legal representation is beneficial for parents who desire to obtain sole custody or other rights to their child.

What purpose does a parenting plan serve?

A parenting plan is a written agreement that outlines how a child’s needs will be met after a separation or divorce. It should include basic provisions on how decisions will be made on behalf of the child, how the parents will communicate with each other, and relevant visitation schedules. When drafting a parenting plan, it is ideal to work with divorce lawyers in Gainesville, FL to ensure that your parenting plan is effective and enforceable. A good parenting plan encourages a cooperative and healthy parenting system.

What is time sharing?

Time sharing allows parents to have equal access and time with a child after a separation or divorce.

Is it possible to obtain sole custody of my child?

Yes. You have a greater chance of being granted sole custody if the co-parent is deemed unfit to care for the needs of a child. This is often due to drug dependency or past acts of domestic violence or other abusive behaviors. If you wish to obtain sole custody of your child, visit our family law firm.

What should I do to gain sole custody of my children?

You should file a petition for sole custody of your children with a local court of law. Gainesville child custody attorneys can help you compile the necessary materials to support your request.

Do I have to share custody of my child?

In most cases, yes. Although sole custody may be granted to you, courts like to ensure that children have access to both parents for a well-rounded childhood. It is likely that your former spouse or co-parent will be granted visitation rights or legal custody.

Will leaving my children with their other parent cause me to be denied custody at a later date?

This is a possibility. While courts will consider your reasoning for leaving your children with their other parent, they may deny custody to you for the following reasons:

Stability Purposes: It is best for children to have stability. Granting custody to a parent who the children have lived with for a long period of time may prevent children from having to adapt to a new or unfamiliar lifestyle.

Pre-Established Conditions: The other parent may appear more favorable in a court of law because of established positive conditions and experiences with the children.

Do mothers have a greater chance of being awarded custody?

Because mothers are awarded custody more often than fathers, this commonly accepted stereotype is based on some facts.

In custody and visitation decisions, will race play a role?

No. Race, cultural identities, gender and other external characteristics will not play a role in custody and visitation decisions.

Who determines the amount of visitation that is reasonable and fair?

Because the custodial parent cares for the everyday needs of a child, he/she will play a significant role in determining the amount of visitation that is allowed. The noncustodial parent will likely have to work around the schedule of the custodial parent. In these types of case, it is necessary for parents to maintain healthy forms of communication with each other. If visitation issues develop and persist, a judge may determine a visitation schedule that is reasonable and fair.

Should I rely on the mediation approach to solve child custody issues?

It is wise to consider this process. Mediation is an excellent approach for solving child custody issues. It is a cost-effective method that enables parents to meet with a neutral third-party within a short timeframe. During these meetings, child custody issues are discussed in a manner that is collaborative, positive and honest. Not only will parents be able to work towards an effective parenting plan, but they are likely to develop a lasting conflict resolution system that allows future child issues to be handled effectively.

What is the role of a "primary caretaker"? Who serves as the primary caretaker?

The primary caretaker is responsible for a myriad of duties for proper childcare. Tasks may include daily maintenance and care, such as ensuring that a child is well-fed, properly cleansed, and has access to healthcare and education. In most cases, the custodial parent, or the parent who the child lives with, is considered the primary caretaker.

If I was never married to the mother, is it still possible to gain custody of my child?

Yes, but you may experience some challenges. When a mother is unmarried, custody is automatically granted to her. Once you establish paternity and/or your name is indicated on a child’s birth certificate, you can pursue visitation and legal custody rights. In most cases, the only way that a court may consider granting you with sole custody is if the mother is determined to be unfit in a court of law.

How is "physical" and "legal" custody of children different?

Children live with the parent who is awarded physical custody. Legal custody is usually granted to both parents, so that decisions made on behalf of a child are based on collaborative governance. Legal custody allows parents to decide matters of health care, religion, education and other important decisions.

I am a single mother who never married my child’s father. Is he entitled to legal rights to custody?

Yes. If your child’s father has established paternity, then he is entitled to specific rights to your child. He has the right to pursue sole, joint or legal custody.

Is it possible for my former spouse and I to determine a custody and visitation arrangement without court intervention?

Yes. You and your former spouse can work together on a custody and visitation agreement that meets the needs of your child and considers your schedules. Keep in mind, however, that if you rely on this approach, the agreement will have to be reviewed and approved by a court of law.

Is it only possible for parents to be awarded custody?

No. While it is certainly common for biological parents to be awarded custody, custody can be granted to anyone who is deemed fit and suitable by a court of law. Often, close loved ones, such as grandparents and godparents, are awarded custody.

What legal rights, if at all, do grandparents have?

Unless a grandparent is named as a guardian of a child, there are no legal rights owed to him/her.

For more insight on Florida child custody determination, visit Silverman, Mack & Associates today.