Child Custody in Florida

When you’re facing down a divorce with children involved, you’re going to be thinking of many different things. Alimony, asset distribution, what happens to your property, and so on… But one thing that you might think you understand that you’re probably totally wrong about is the idea of child custody. Child custody does not exist in Florida. So what do we mean by that – Who will your child live with after a divorce? To understand what may happen with your children and where they will live, continue reading this article.

Parenting Laws in Florida

Fla.Stat§61.13 governs Florida’s parenting laws. The aspects of parenting that don’t involve money are divided into two subcategories: Decision making and time. Decisions regarding how your child is raised and how they are cared for are referred to as “parental responsibility.” The amount of time a child is spending with either parent is we refer to as “time sharing” or “parenting time.” These fields are collectively handled by a legal document referred to as a Parenting Plan. Parents will agree to either a court-ordered Parenting Plan or one they have agreed upon.

As a matter of fact, Fla.Stat§61.13(2) (a) holds that under certain situations, even if the child does not live within the state of Florida, there will still be the possibility that a Florida Parenting Plan can be made, approved, or adopted by the court if it seems as though the parent removed the child, “from the state for the primary purpose of removing the child from the court’s jurisdiction in an attempt to avoid the court’s approval, creation, or modification of a parenting plan.” This prevents either parent from sabotaging or avoiding the legal process.

Parenting Plan

In the simplest terms, a parenting plan is a contract that governs every part of the co-parenting process between individuals. Every situation is unique, and every parenting plan is different and may govern your child’s life for up to eighteen years. These include:

  • School attendance
  • Timesharing
  • Healthcare decisions
  • Tasks expected of each parent
  • Religious decisions
  • Contact amounts or restrictions, including
  • The type of contact allowed between parents and children

Minimum Breadth

These plans can be as detailed and expansive as parents agree to. However, there is a minimum breadth Florida state law requires, which includes:

  • It must cover how parents plan to be responsible for daily care related to the child’s upbringing.
  • Needs a specific time-sharing schedule during the school year and over school breaks.
  • Who is responsible for healthcare, school, school, and after-school activities, and the means through which a parent can communicate with the children.

These will be presented in detail. While courts very rarely act as a “third parent” or “tie breaker” in the event parents cannot agree, they may designate one parent the “ultimate” decision-maker. This is in regards to certain parts of a child’s life in the event the parents have Shared Parental Responsibility. Which is a form of joint decision-making.
There are often misunderstandings related to the time-sharing aspect of a Parenting Plan, especially when parents expect to be entitled to equal time spent with their child. While parents are certainly encouraged to partake in the joys and responsibilities of raising a child, the child’s best interests come first, and there is certainly no legal requirement to equal time.

If you would like to learn more about parenting plans, time-sharing schedules, or parental responsibilities, please feel free to contact our Family Law attorneys to set up a consultation.