Divorce can be extremely stressful, especially when children are involved. Explore how custody and child visitation is determined during proceedings.

A recent census found that 69% of children under the age of 18 live with two parents while another 23% live with their mother. The other 10% live with their father, nonparental family members, or other legal guardians.

The road to child custody and child visitation is often a rocky one. It’s not as simple as following the child’s wishes, although what the child wants does play a large role in the proceedings.

Without a strong grasp on custody and visitation laws, it can be difficult to make the case that will grant you the relationship with your child that you desire.

Read on to find out everything you need to know about how child custody and visitation schedules are determined in Florida.

Establishing Custody

The 2019 Florida Statues regarding child custody can be confusing for those who do not have a background in law. For this reason, it is in your best interest to hire an attorney that specializes in child custody law.

To help you understand what to expect of this process, we’ve broken down the basics regarding the establishment of child custody.

Legal and Physical Custody

Child custody determines who is in charge of care, decision-making, and maintenance of a child under the age of 18. The state of Florida breaks custody down into legal custody and physical custody.

A parent with legal custody has the right to make educational, medical, religious, and disciplinary decisions for the child. A parent with physical custody is responsible for providing basic necessities. They live with the child and must ensure day-to-day wellness.

Typically, the parent who has physical custody will also have legal custody. However, the Florida court can establish forms of custody in which these responsibilities are divided up between two parents.

Sole Custody and Joint Custody

Sole custody grants both legal and physical custody to one parent. Joint custody, which Florida refers to as shared parental responsibility, entails that both parents share legal and physical custody.

If you and your former spouse are granted joint custody, there is still the question of who will be named the primary joint custodian. It is expected that both parents will reach agreements relating to legal custody. However, the child will live with their primary joint custodian for the majority of the year.

The Florida court system prefers to establish shared parental responsibility as frequently as possible. However, whether or not they can do so depends on a number of factors that we will discuss below.

Factors That Affect Custody

Initially, you, your former spouse, and your child have a say in the most suitable custodial arrangement. However, if you cannot come to an agreement with the help of mediation, the decision will go to the court.

The court will take into consideration the following:

  • The moral, mental, and physical status of each parent
  • The parents’ ability to provide financial and emotional support
  • The willingness of both parents to honor the time-sharing schedule
  • The parents’ ability to meet the child’s developmental needs
  • The involvement of each parent with the child including, but not limited to, attendance of parent-teacher conferences, special events, and doctors’ appointments
  • The necessity of third-party care such as a nanny
  • The permanence of the proposed primary home and the continuity of the child’s current situation
  • The child’s history at home and at school
  • Existing ties and love and affection between the child and parents
  • Any history of domestic violence, sexual abuse, or neglect

The court is looking to see if the child has a better relationship with a certain parent. They’re also ensuring that the parent can provide stability and security for the child. Sole custody is usually only rewarded if there is a history of domestic violence with one of the parents or if one of the parents was never involved in the child’s life.

Gathering the necessary information can be overwhelming. You will need to have documents that reveal your own income and involvement in the child’s life, amongst other things. Fortunately, there are plenty of online resources that will help you through this process.

In nearly every case, visitation is required. Even if one parent has sole custody, they can only deny the other parent visitation rights if the court has deemed this the best option for the child. We will discuss child visitation guidelines below.

Establishing a Child Visitation Schedule

According to Florida State Law, a parenting plan is required even when the parents are not disputing a time-sharing schedule. This parenting plan should be agreed upon by both parents. Once the parents have come to an agreement, the court must approve it.

If the parents cannot come to an agreement, the court will settle upon a parenting plan that is still legally binding. If one or both parents refuse to cooperate with the parenting plan, they will face legal consequences.

The Types of Parenting Plans

There are three main types of parenting plans that may be used in settling visitation rights.

A typical time-sharing plan is used when both parents are deemed fit to care for the child. It is used when the parents receive joint custody.

A supervised and safety-focused parenting plan is necessary only when one parent requires supervised visitations. It is used when one parent has sole custody but the other parent is not barred from seeing the child altogether.

A relocation or long-distance parenting plan is necessary when one parent is relocating to an area that is not considered local to the other parent. Even if one parent moves for their job or other valid reasons, they still have the right to see their child a reasonable number of times a year. Note that the primary joint custodian may also relocate as long as it is not deemed harmful to the child.

What Goes Into a Parenting Plan

A parenting plan establishes the responsibilities divided between two parents of a child. It also determines the visitation schedule they must follow. When you’re settling on a visitation schedule, there are certain things you will need to discuss.

First, establish a residential schedule. This relates to the day-to-day care and outlines what days of the week or weekends of the month that the child is staying with each parent.

Second, discuss a holiday schedule. This can be a sensitive topic because oftentimes, both parents want to spend major holidays or birthdays with their child.

You may have to make concessions that hurt in the present. Remember that you are doing what’s best for the child by allowing them to spend quality time with your former spouse.

Finally, establish a summer vacation schedule. Summer is often a time that the non-primary joint custodian can spend more time with their child because the child is no longer location-bound to their school district. Many parents divide summer vacation time-sharing evenly but this up to you and your former partner.

Remember that you have to discuss not only the time shared with each parent but also the modes of transportation the child can rely on. Will one of you pick the child up from the other’s home? Will you involve a third party or establish a neutral meeting ground?

These may seem like things that you can establish on a day-to-day basis but the court will want answers upfront. Once again, it is in the child’s best interest that you hammer out all of these details with a mediator or in court. Otherwise, you run the risk of personal feelings getting in the way of the child’s ability to see both parents.

How Is a Child Visitation Schedule Settled?

In the process of determining a workable visitation schedule, the court will once again revisit the questions they asked in deciding upon custody. Some of the main concerns will revolve around each parent’s ability to take the child to school. In other words, if one parent lives far from the child’s school, they will likely not receive weekday overnight visitation.

Once a visitation schedule is agreed upon, modification is not ideal. It will only happen if material, substantial, and unanticipated changes occur.

For example, the visitation schedule may be altered if one parent loses their job and is no longer financially able to provide for the child. It also may be altered if one parent has a drug or alcohol relapse, experiences mental illness issues, or runs into problems with the law.

Overall, the ultimate goal of the court is to ensure stability for the child in spite of the change in relationship status between the two parents.

Find a Child Custody and Visitation Attorney in Orlando, Florida

If you are seeking legal counsel to settle issues of child custody and child visitation in Orlando, Florida, you’ve come to the right place.

Contact us so that we can discuss your case as well as any financial concerns and scheduling concerns you may have.

If you and your spouse have made the decision to part ways, find out just how long does it take for a divorce to finalize in Florida.

Getting married can be a fantastic journey. Sometimes, however, that journey must come to an end to open doors for new adventures.

In the United States, somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of marriages end in divorce.

During and after a divorce, it’s not uncommon to go back and forth between feelings of giddiness and devastation. Plus, it’s reasonable to want the process to be over with as soon as possible.

If you and your partner have reached a point where you know divorce is the answer, you’re probably wondering, “How long does it take for a divorce?”

This guide will tell you all about ending your marriage in Florida and how long it takes to finalize a divorce.

How Long Does It Take for a Divorce to Finalize?

There’s no specific answer for how long finalizing a divorce takes. It depends significantly on the type of divorce and the route you opt to take.

It also depends on your state. Some states have laws that require a 6-month waiting period from the time you file your paperwork. In Florida, however, it can take anywhere from a few months to years.

Incompatibility, infidelity, and money issues are 3 of the main reasons why people split.

How long a divorce takes depends on the reasons behind the divorce, and on factors like whether or not the divorce is contested.

Let’s take a look at what those different circumstances entail so you can better determine where you and your partner’s divorce can be categorized.

A Simplified Divorce

A simplified divorce is the fastest divorce process. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it is the quickest route to end your union.

It only works if you have no children under 18, no dependents and if neither spouse seeks alimony. The wife can’t be pregnant, and at least one partner must have lived in the state of Florida for the previous 6 months.

Plus, you both have to agree to the divorce in the first place. For it to work, you must agree on the division of your properties. Once you both submit a petition with financial affidavits, the court will set a hearing about 20 days later.

At that hearing, the divorce will be finalized, as long as everything you submitted was correct.

In Florida, the process is called a “Simplified Dissolution of Marriage.” The process eliminates any rights to a trial or appeals and takes about 30 days from beginning to end.

An Uncontested Divorce Case

An uncontested divorce case is similar to a simplified divorce in that both spouses are in complete agreement on every detail. There must be no disputes or discrepancies.

Both partners must agree on any child support or alimony to be paid, child custody, division of liabilities, division of assets, who gets tax exemptions, and any other details addressed. For a divorce to be uncontested, there can’t be any arguing, any unresolved issues, or any competitions.

Both spouses have to cooperate, work together to fix any paperwork, and sign everything in a timely and efficient manner. Uncontested divorces are quick, just like simplified ones. They can be even faster with the help of an attorney because attorneys have the power to control the scheduling.

Filing is instant, but it can take a few weeks to prepare the paperwork. A final hearing typically occurs 3 months after the paperwork is filed, so the divorce process takes approximately 4 months to complete.

An Initially Contested Divorce

Initially contested divorce cases are the most common types of Florida divorces. They’re prepared in the traditional manner, where paperwork is filed with the court, and then the other spouse gets served.

That means a private process server will personally deliver those documents to the other spouse. They may or may not be prepared for that moment.

In this type of divorce, the circumstances can be quite different from one couple to the next. The commonality, however, is that something’s contested. It doesn’t matter how many issues are contested or if both spouses agree they want a divorce.

If there’s even just one single issue that’s disagreed upon, the case is contested. A common reason for this has to do with finances. More often than not, both parties are in agreement on the divorce but aren’t in agreement as to how the money will get broken up.

Luckily, most cases that are initially contested settle at a “halfway point” during the divorce process. The halfway point usually involves mediation, where both spouses come to an agreement over their disputes. Once those issues are settled, the case then becomes an “uncontested case.”

How Long Does It Take to Finalize a Divorce That Goes From Contested to Uncontested?

A divorce that’s initially contested can take more time if the receiving party hides from the process server. Believe it or not, many spouses who aren’t ready to accept their spouse’s desire for divorce will dodge getting hit with the paperwork.

This process can extend the divorce process by a month. Process servers are fast and resourceful, though, so a spouse has to be quite tricky in their methods to keep dodging the server.

Once the other party receives the Summons and Petition, they have 20 days to file their answer. Next comes the discovery process, including financial disclosure, which takes approximately 3 months. Both sides must send the other party a set of financial documents, such as pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns, and retirement account statements.

Cases that are fully contested have more time-consuming requirements, so the process can take longer.

If there are children involved, the state of Florida requires a 4-hour parenting course for both parties before they can finalize a divorce.

If mediation is required, it’ll usually occur 4 to 5 months after filing. Most contested cases come to a conclusion at this point.

Florida requires mediation in all contested divorce cases, and it can be done through a private mediator or the courthouse. Opting to go with a private mediator can save some time in the divorce process.

The final hearing in an initially contested case usually occurs 4 to 6 months after the beginning of the case. It’s the last state of the divorce process, so technically, your divorce could be over in less than 6 months.

What Can Slow Down or Speed up the Process?

Here are some things which can speed up or slow down the process:

  • The accuracy of documents
  • Coming to an agreement in mediation
  • Failure to follow the procedures (either party or both)
  • Availability of the judge

Attorneys have an in with judges in that it’s much easier for them to call and grab a date. If neither spouse has an attorney, the flow and timing could be a little more up in the air.

Contested Divorces Take the Longest

Contested divorces are the long, drawn-out battles you hear about from friends or watch on TV dramas.

Some of these cases go to trial, but either way, the process is usually long and unpredictable.

Finalizing a divorce that’s contested can take anywhere from 9 months to 3 years. Once in a while, a contested divorce in Florida will take 5 or 6 years, but that’s rare.

The First Half of a Contested Divorce Case

The first half of a contested divorce case takes about 3 to 9 months. It looks similar to that of an initially contested case in that the case has to be prepared, filed, and then served.

Financial disclosure can take months, and the court always orders mediation in the state of Florida.

Because things are contested, the process is more extensive, detailed, and can go back and forth for quite some time. One or both sides could refuse disclosure requests and end up going back and forth to court. Sometimes, a delay is even used as a strategic weapon.

Depositions and Trials

If either side conducts a deposition, it usually means there’s significant conflict. During depositions, both attorneys ask questions, a court reporter types everything, and the process can take a lot of money and time.

The final trial of a contested case can take anywhere from 4 hours to 2 weeks. Usually, they last about a day. The preparation, however, can take up to a year. Typically though, it’s more like 5 months.

As you can see, there’s a lot of variation in Florida divorce case lengths, especially concerning contested cases.

How Long Does It Take for a Divorce to Finalize in Florida?

How long does it take for a divorce to finalize in Florida? The average length is about 6 months. But as you can see from the many different types of cases and circumstances that arise, the divorce process can take 4 months or 4 years.

If you’re anxious to finalize your divorce, the best thing both parties can do is, be honest in their disclosures and willing to negotiate.

Are you ready to get started and want to know how we can help? Even if both parties are in agreement, divorce can be emotionally and physically draining.

Contact us with any questions or concerns. We are here to make your divorce process as easy for you as we can.