Child Custody

Child Custody

Child Custody in Florida

While members of the public will often speak of who gets “child custody” in a dissolution proceeding, in Florida the issues surrounding the minor children who are part of a divorce proceeding are governed by the Shared Parental Responsibility Act. The law in Florida no longer uses the phrase “custody” and no longer provides for a “primary residential parent.” Florida law requires that a “Parenting Plan” be prepared for every case. The best interest of the child is always the most important consideration.

What is a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a document that is created that determines how the parents will make the decisions that need to be made regarding their minor child. The plan must contain a time sharing schedule. The best practice, and most usually in the best interest of the child, is when the parents are able to develop the parenting plan and agree to time sharing between themselves, without asking a busy judge to decide for them. The child’s interests are always the highest importance in preparing a parenting plan. There is no presumption for or against the mother or the father. There is no requirement that parents will have “equal” time. The time sharing must always meet the best interest of the child.

Shared Parental Responsibility

Shared parental responsibility is part of Florida law. The parents’ rights and responsibilities are split into 1. Decision making (legal shared responsibility), and 2. where the child lays his head more often (physical shared parental responsibility). In making decisions for the child, the parents share the responsibility and are expected to speak and cooperate to make decisions for the child together while avoiding unnecessary conflict. The parents may divide up areas on which they will attempt to confer and cooperate but let one parent have the ‘final say’, in the event they cannot agree. This parent is the parent who has “ultimate responsibility” for that particular issue. Areas of responsibility can include education, health care and similar.

Time Sharing Schedule

A parenting plan must contain a timesharing schedule for the parents and children. This timetable must include overnights and holidays that the minor child will spend with each parent. The time sharing schedule is not required to provide for “equal” time and divorcing parents are encouraged not to fight over “custody” (a concept which no longer exists in Florida), nor should parents “fight” to seek “equal” time. The focus is always the best interest of the child.

Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course

If you are the parent of a minor child involved in divorce proceedings, Florida law requires that you attend a Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course. This course must be completed prior to the courts giving a final judgment in your case. This course is not designed to provide individual mental health therapy but to educate parents on legal aspects, emotional aspects, family dynamics and skill based relationship education. You should take the required Parent Education course at the earliest stage possible in your case.

Todd C. Passman, P.A. handles Family Law cases serving Fort Pierce, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, Stuart, and Okeechobee, Florida, and surrounding areas. Family law cases include divorce, child custody issues, visitation, spousal support, child adoption, petitions for modifications of orders, and pre and post nuptial agreements.

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If you need a lawyer for a family law matter, including divorce, child custody issues, visitation, spousal support, child adoption, petitions for modifications of orders, and pre and post nuptial agreements please contact Todd C. Passman today, at (772) 465-9806 or fill out the contact form on this page. Someone from our office will contact you right away.