How to File for Child Custody in Florida

By David Carnes

In Florida, the legal relationship between a child and a divorced or separated parent is determined by a parenting plan that must be submitted by the parents and approved by a Florida family court. The court may authorize one parent to make critical decisions regarding the child's welfare, such as where he will live or where he will go to school, or it may allow the parents to jointly decide such issues. The basic legal standard that applies to child custody arrangements is the "best interests of the child."

In Florida, the legal relationship between a child and a divorced or separated parent is determined by a parenting plan that must be submitted by the parents and approved by a Florida family court. The court may authorize one parent to make critical decisions regarding the child's welfare, such as where he will live or where he will go to school, or it may allow the parents to jointly decide such issues. The basic legal standard that applies to child custody arrangements is the "best interests of the child."

Step 1

Determine the appropriate court in which to file for child custody. If you are undergoing divorce proceedings, the court handling the divorce is most likely to be the appropriate court to handle child custody matters. Otherwise, select the circuit court with jurisdiction over the child's residence.

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Step 2

Complete a Petition to Determine Paternity and For Related Relief, if you are not married to the child's other parent. This petition requires you to identify yourself and your relationship to the child, state details about the child's conception and your sexual relationship with the child's other parent, state where the child currently resides with his mother or father, state your preferences for custody and visitation, request child support payments and provide other information. You must sign this document in the presence of a notary public.

Step 3

Prepare a Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) Affidavit. This form requires you to provide information about the child in the form of sworn statements. You must sign it in the presence of a notary public.

Step 4

Complete a Family Law Financial Affidavit, which requires detailed information about your income and expenses. You must sign this form in the presence of a notary public.

Step 5

Prepare a Child Support Guidelines Worksheet. This form allows you to calculate how much child support, if any, to request. It requires your signature but not notarization.

Step 6

Prepare a parenting plan. The parenting plan must identify both parents, identify the child or children subject to the plan, state whether both parents agree to the plan, identify a preference for sole custody or joint custody with respect to decision-making authority concerning various aspects of the child's life, and describe preferred visitation arrangements. It must be signed by both parents in the presence of a notary public. If one parent refuses to sign, the court is entitled to determine the matters addressed by the parenting plan based on the best interests of the child. Even if both parents sign it, the court may refuse to honor it if it is not in the best interests of the child to do so.

Step 7

Complete a Notice of Social Security Number. This form requires you to reveal the birth date and Social Security numbers of yourself and your minor children. You must sign it in the presence of a notary public.

Step 8

File all of the foregoing documents with the court clerk of the appropriate Florida circuit court. The filing fee varies by jurisdiction. The court will set a hearing date and notify you.

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