When you’re going through a divorce with minor children or dealing with any other child custody matters, you’re probably going through a mix of emotions. But you also have lots of questions.
Below, Conti Moore Law Divorce Lawyers, PLLC, in Orlando, Florida, provides you with answers to some of the most common child custody questions. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with an Orlando child custody lawyer.
What is Child Custody?
Florida does not use the term custody. Florida Statutes prefer the term time-sharing. The state of Florida does not recognize a primary or secondary custodial parent. Instead, it uses shared parenting—more on that next.
Generally, child custody or time-sharing refers to the time minor children spend with each of their parents. It will also include any responsibilities each parent may have, either when your child is with you or with their other parent.
What is Shared Parenting in Florida?
Shared parenting in Florida is the concept that parents should be able to bond and develop a relationship with their children. Courts start with a presumption that parents should receive equal time-sharing. Even if this means you miss some holidays with your children, you’ll receive an equal amount of time and may receive next year’s holidays.
Shared parenting doesn’t have to be equal, however. Florida courts have the discretion to adjust the custody schedule based on several factors, including whether one parent is incarcerated or has a history of abuse.
What’s the Best Interest of the Child Standard?
The best interests of the child standard is how courts consider time-sharing in Florida. Courts make custody decisions by evaluating what is best for the child.
These considerations may include:
- The age of the child
- Their existing relationship with both parents
- The ability of either parent to provide a stable environment
- The ongoing relationship between the child and the parents
- The ability of either parent to keep the child safe
Judges have discretion as to what weight to give to such factors.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A parenting plan lays out the terms of the time-sharing. Many parents are able to negotiate a time-sharing arrangement that works for them. Your lawyers will then draft a parenting plan for a judge to review and approve.
But some parents are unable to agree. In this case, you’ll need to go to court and have a judge decide. They’ll determine where the child will be each day of the week, on holidays, on vacations, and many other factors. By negotiating with the other parent, you can keep more control over the time-sharing agreement you reach.
If I Have Joint Custody, Does Either Parent Have to Pay Child Support?
Florida calls joint custody by a different phrase: equal time-sharing. Calculating whether one parent pays child support and how much can be confusing. Luckily, Florida provides a Child Support Guidelines Worksheet.
A court will look at each parent’s earning capacity, the percentage of time-sharing they have, health insurance costs, school and extracurricular activities, daycare, and any other costs associated with your child.
If you cover most of these costs but you’re also the higher earner, you may still need to pay some child support, but it will be reduced by the amount you pay out of pocket for other childcare costs.
Can One Parent Refuse to Allow Visitation if Child Support Isn’t Paid?
No. This goes against Florida’s best interests of the child standard as it would hinder your child from developing a relationship with that parent.
It’s also considered two distinct issues in Florida family law. Child support is calculated based on time-sharing but time-sharing cannot be impacted by one parent’s nonpayment of child support.
Can My Child Decide Where They Want to Live?
Under Florida law, children may have a preference of where they want to live. Some Florida courts have landed on ages 11 to 14, but there’s no specific age under the law where a judge must follow what a child wants.
Instead, judges consider the reasonable preferences of the child only if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence to give a preference. You can assume that if your child is less than 10, they may have a preference, but a judge doesn’t have to abide by their preference.
Do Grandparents Have Any Custody or Visitation Rights in Florida?
Not when both parents are alive and ready, willing, and able to care for their children. If one parent dies, for example, and the other is incarcerated, a court may grant temporary time-sharing to a grandparent if the grandparent can show they have developed a relationship with their grandchild. This example goes to show the best interests of the child standard in action that it’s better to place a child with someone they know, especially a family member.
Legal Note: Be aware that the Florida Supreme Court has routinely held that any law attempting to compel visitation with a grandparent is unconstitutional.
However, if a parent is in the military, they can assign their time-sharing rights to a family member. This could be a child’s grandparent. This gives the grandparent time-sharing rights as though they were the other parent.
Can I Change My Custody?
Yes. You can modify child time-sharing and parenting plans. However, you’ll need to show a substantial change in circumstances and that the requested modification is in the best interests of your child.
If you lived in another state when your child time-sharing was ordered, you may have received reduced time because of your physical distance. But now you’ve moved to the same neighborhood as your child and are seeking to establish a better relationship. Presenting this information to the court will probably sway them to change your parenting plan and provide equal time-sharing between you and your child’s other parent.
Contact an Orlando Child Custody Lawyer Today
Whether you’re battling child custody in your divorce or a separate family law proceeding, you need skilled representation to make sure your interests and the best interests of your child are followed.