Child Custody Issues in Florida
Child custody matters in Florida are governed by Florida Statue 61.13. When a divorce occurs in the state involving minor children, the law requires that a timesharing plan be drawn up and filed with the court. This plan can be worked out between the parents themselves, with the help of a mediator, or through litigation in court. Plans must be approved by the court whose operating guideline is to ensure that the child’s best interests are met.
Florida courts favor joint custody based on the underlying belief that children benefit from a frequent and continuing relationship with both parents. Furthermore, parents are considered equally in all custody cases; mothers are not given preference over fathers based on the social concept of maternity.
Timesharing refers to the time both parents spend with a child. This is boiled down to a schedule of overnights as well as how holidays, vacations, birthdays, and other special occasions will be arranged as well as other terms and conditions. In other states, this is called a “parenting plan.”
Custody is divided into:
- Legal custody. This is the ability of a parent to make decisions concerning a child’s education, health care, religious upbringing, and other life matters.
- Physical custody. This relates with whom the child will live. Joint custody can include approximately equal timesharing or other arrangements. One parent is generally designated as the “primary” parent while the other is “secondary.” Sole custody generally only occurs where the court deems that the implicated other parent poses a risk to the child’s safety or wellbeing.
Courts will look at many factors involving the parents and family dynamics when ruling on how custody and timesharing should be arranged.
Under Florida law, relocation of a child who is subject to a court-ordered custody/timesharing plan must meet certain requirements. Such a child may not be relocated more than 50 miles from their home unless the other parent gives written permission. If this occurs, the parents can enter into a mutual agreement concerning a revised timesharing plan that will include transportation arrangements. If the non-moving parent does not agree, a legal procedure must be undertaken in which the matter can be settled in court. The relocating parent will have the burden of proof demonstrating that such a move is in the child’s best interests.