Who Gets Custody in a Divorce in Florida?

By Heather Frances J.D.

When Florida couples divorce but disagree about custody, a Florida court determines how the spouses will share time with their children. In 2008, Florida redesigned its custody statutes to discourage the perception that one parent has custody while the other parent does not. Now, custody is called “time sharing” in Florida, and courts award time to each parent rather than saying one parent has custody.

Prerequisites

Before a Florida court can decide custody matters in a divorce, both parents must attend a parenting class to help them guide their children through the changes brought by divorce. In some locations, the parents must attend a class designed specifically for divorcing parents. If parents agree on their parenting arrangements, they must submit that proposed plan to the court for approval.

Joint Legal Custody

Florida judges presume that joint legal custody, called shared parental responsibility, is best for every child. Legal custody is the right to make important decisions in the life of the child, including medical care, education and religious training. In contrast, physical custody, or parenting time, refers to the amount of time the child spends with each parent, so shared parental responsibility only means the parents share the right to make important decisions for the child. It does not control how much time each parent has with the child. The court can award sole legal custody to one parent if the judge finds that joint custody would be harmful for the child.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Best Interests

If parents go to trial to have the judge award custody, the judge makes his decision based on the best interests of the child, and judges use many factors laid out in Florida law to determine a child’s best interests. These factors include the parents' moral fitness and mental and physical health, but most of the factors focus on the importance of continuity for the child. This emphasis can give an edge to the parent who has historically been the caregiver of the child.

Evaluations and Guardians ad Litem

Florida courts can order evaluations of the parents to help the court address the factors to determine the child’s best interests. Courts can also appoint a guardian ad litem -- a specially trained representative -- to act for the child during the custody proceedings. In Florida, a guardian ad litem represents the child but does not act as the child’s attorney. Instead, the guardian ensures the child’s best interests are protected throughout the divorce proceedings.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Basic Child Visitation Rights in Florida Laws
 

References

Related articles

How Is Child Custody Decided In Divorce?

Every state defers to a concept called the “best interests of the child” when deciding custody issues. But different states interpret this guideline in different ways. As a parent, you might do your best for your child every day, only to find that a judge disagrees with your assessment. In the end, it comes down to the opinion of that judge and what he and his state believe to be the most important factors in a child’s life. But some standard tenets apply.

California's Laws on Custody and Visitation for the Noncustodial Parent

Navigating child custody laws in California can seem like a daunting task for parents. For the non-custodial parent, it is important to understand the differences between physical and legal custody and the factors that play a role in determining shared and sole custody arrangements. It is also important to recognize that the process does not necessarily end with the initial custody orders; changes in circumstances, including the relocation of the custodial parent, can require repeat contact with the family court.

Court Procedures for Shared Custody in South Carolina

Understanding the custody procedure in South Carolina can help parents better prepare and present their case to a judge. The process operates similar to a trial, with parties exchanging information in advance and attempting to reach a mutual resolution, based in either sole or shared custody arrangements. If the parents cannot effectively resolve these issues to the satisfaction of the court, a judge will issue an order following an analysis of the factors related to the best interest of the child..

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Divorce & Child Custody Family Law in California

California spouses can agree to the terms of their divorce, including child custody, or they can allow the court to ...

Family Laws on Sole Custody in the State of Georgia

Except in extreme circumstances, Georgia courts usually will not award sole custody of children to one parent -- at ...

Rules for Divorce and Custody in Arizona

The hardest part of divorce is often realizing that you might no longer get to live with your children full time. ...

Florida Law for Shared Custody of Minor Children

Emotions tend to run high in custody proceedings and parents often lose sight of what's best for their children. ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED