If you are looking to learn more about child custody cases in Florida, you should click here for information on how a judge will decide who gets custody.

Divorce and child custody are ranked very high on the Holmes and Rahe Life Change Stress Units scale, with divorce ranking number second in terms of the most stressful life events. The only other thing in life more stressful than divorce according to this scale is the death of a spouse.

One of the reasons these breakups are so stressful is because child custody becomes a life-changer.

Parents wonder if they are going to lose their child or see that relationship changed forever.

Under this pressure, you want to be sure you are equipped with the best information possible. Find out here what to expect in your child custody matter when a Florida judge decides the rest of your family’s life.

Florida Child Custody Basics

When it comes to child custody in Florida, there are a few basic terms you need to learn right away. There is legal custody, physical custody, sole custody, and shared or joint custody.

Then you need to understand the differences between custody and responsibilities. Parenting time is not the same as parenting responsibilities.

The one thing that often muddies all of this up for parents is the emotional factor of divorce and custody. Breakups are emotional and painful, and many parents go into a divorce or child custody matter feeling contentious and vengeful.

Going into a custody matter with this mindset will work against you. Florida judges don’t care about how sad you are about a breakup when determining which parent gets custody.

They are only looking for a solution that fits the best interest of the child. And the term “best interest of the child” should be at the top of your mind when you are in the middle of a heated custody battle.

The definition of “best interests of the child” is defined by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

There are exceptions to this, such as abuse and domestic violence. Those factors too will be considered by your Florida judge, when you have evidence to substantiate those claims.

Defining Custody Terms

In Florida, judges will decide who gets legal custody, who gets physical custody, and whether or not joint custody will occur.

Custody is a decision on where the child lives, and when they live there. In addition to custody decisions, judges will determine who has parental responsibilities.

This is different than determining where a child lives. Parental responsibilities decisions involve determining who is responsible for what in the child’s life.

Responsibilities determine who decides what in the child’s life, including school choices, dentist appointments, medical decisions, and more.

So even if your child does not live with you full-time, you can negotiate what responsibilities are yours when it comes to determining child custody.

In most cases, by the time these decisions are made before you go before a judge, the two parents and their lawyers can hash something out that makes everybody happy.

What is Joint Custody?

Joint or shared custody is the most common form of custody in Florida, as Florida judges want to ensure that both parents are taking an active role in a child’s life. Joint custody usually means you share both responsibilities and access times with your child.

It is not called “visitation.” When your child is with you, you are their parent.

You are not visiting them. You are not babysitting them. You are performing your legal responsibilities to your child.

Judges do not look kindly on actions that include shutting a parent out of a child’s life because you are emotionally upset with them.

So it is in your child’s best interests to avoid an acrimonious situation.

And that’s a good thing. You are entitled to help from the other parent when you are raising a child.

Joint Custody Example

For example, let’s say enrolling a special needs child in an extracurricular activity would help them socially, emotionally, and behaviorally. But the activity sometimes falls on the access times of the other parent, who isn’t interested in doing this because they are feeling spiteful towards you.

You want a judge telling that parent, this is not okay, wise up.

The more conciliatory and harmonious you are with the other parent, at all times, and in custody court, the more you are going to look like the winning party. And, the more likely you are to get what you want.

Remember that in child custody court, the only party that is supposed to win is the child.

Can I Get Sole Custody?

Sole custody in Florida is possible, but it is often an uphill battle. It is rarely granted unless you can prove to the court that the other parent is simply unable to or unwilling to share responsibilities of parenting.

Sole custody often involves one parent taking on the most time with living with the child, and also becomes the main decision-maker of the child.

But this does not mean that the other parent disappears from the child’s life. If this is the mindset you go in with when seeking sole custody, you are going to be disappointed.

Judges will often grant sole custody in matters that are high conflict, entail abuse or violence, or when a parent is an absentee parent.

Many parents are able to negotiate sound parenting plans with the other parent in a custody matter. Florida requires a parenting plan, and Florida judges expect you to be able to reach this plan in a sound way with all parties.

Sometimes This is Not Possible

If this is impossible, either due to an absentee parent or a high-conflict situation, then you are getting closer to sole custody. Other situations such as abuse, domestic violence, incarceration, or drug abuse could also lead to sole custody.

Judges also look at moral fitness when determining custody. If one parent, for example, has a revolving door of boyfriends or girlfriends, a judge may not be keen on permitting a child to live there most of the time.

At the same time, sole custody does not mean the other parent disappears from the child’s life. It means the child lives with you the most, and you make big decisions.

The other parent is still permitted access time, and judges even expect and encourage this when possible.

Leave Emotions Out of It

How you feel about the other parent is not a factor in determining the best interests of the child in child custody.

But the reality is that sometimes you just can’t do that. As in the example above, if another parent is impeding with your child’s best interests, a Florida judge is not going to have that and will grant sole custody to the parent that is contributing the most to the best interests of the child.

If that is repetitive and consistent behavior by one parent, this could be determined to be a high conflict situation and sole custody could be the outcome.

Judges Are Tie-Breakers

Florida judges consider the law, that stipulates that it is your responsibility to protect your child from pain during divorce and custody matters. If one parent is unable to do that, it is going to harm them in a custody matter.

When that happens, a Florida judge will be the tie-breaker on custody decisions and will do so with protecting the child in mind at all costs.

This is why it is always best to be conciliatory in court, and when mapping out a parenting plan. The last thing you want is for the control of the rest of your life to be taken out of your hands and determined by a judge.

But if you are in a custody matter, this is the risk that you take. Be rational and fact-based, and not emotional.

This is why divorce lawyers are worth it. It gives you peace of mind as someone takes the problem out of your hands while you sort out the specifics and resolve the emotional battles on your own, outside of court.

Determining Best Interests of the Child

Florida judges move to protect the child at all costs at first and will use the legal definition of the best interests of the child to determine sole custody.

That usually involves looking at a child’s life to see what would lead to the least amount of emotional disturbance for a child. If a child has been living in one home their entire life, without frequent moves, for example, that home will likely be the home for primary custody and access.

But that alone is not going to get anyone sole custody, it’s simply used as a guideline by judges when determining the legal specifics of best interests of a child.

At the same time, the judge will want to decide on an environment that ensures the child has regular contact with the non-residential mother or father. This is the legal rights of the child.

Where the child is going to school will also play a role, as most judges do not want this disruption.

The strength of the relationships between the child and parent also plays a role in the best interests of the child. The parent that is providing the most basic necessities to the child will also be the residential parent that is in the child’s best interests.

Moral fitness is also a factor in determining the best interests of the child.

Contact a Custody Lawyer Today

Florida is ranked in the middle of the road when it comes to overall happiness in America. One of the things impacting this rate is its divorce and child custody rates, which rank among the highest in the nation.

Child custody matters are matters that change everybody’s life, in a way that permanently alters them. This is why divorce ranks so high on the Holmes and Rahe scale.

Many Florida residents think representing themselves in court will make the process easier and less expensive. But the truth is, child custody matters are determined by a Florida judge who looks at the facts at hand, and not the emotions.

Self-representing could lead to emotions getting tangled up in your matter, which could lead to decisions that are not in the best interests of your child.

Give yourself and your child some peace of mind. Custody lawyers are worth their weight in gold, and can even pursue costs from the other party for you if this is a concern.

Sleep better tonight and contact a Florida child custody lawyer today.

 

 

Do you plan on getting separated from your partner and want to keep your kid at all costs? Here are 10 serious signs you need a child custody lawyer.

Child custody matters can get messy. You both have a vested interest in raising your child, and may also still be healing from the loss of the romantic relationship.

However, you need to handle the legal aspect of this situation by hiring a child custody lawyer that can protect your interests.

It’s vital that you do what is in your child’s best interests, and that means getting your fair shake as a parent. Consider the points below so you know when hiring a lawyer is necessary.

1. Hire a Child Custody Lawyer If You Live in Different Places

Whether you split due to a divorce or just the end of a long-term relationship, you’ll need to put a custody arrangement in writing. This becomes more difficult when you live in different places.

Simply put, you’ll absolutely need to bring in a child custody lawyer if you’re living in different areas. When you’re living in two different cities or regions, the judge will need to consider the distance and where it makes the most sense for the child to live.  In Florida, the traditional concept of child custody is dead and they instead practice “shared parental responsibilities”.

If you’re in two different states, you will potentially be dealing with two entirely different family court systems. This means you’ll need to learn where and how to file, and what sorts of circumstances the situation is subject to.

Having a lawyer lets you make sense of these issues for you.

2. If the Other Parent Has Hired a Lawyer

It’s definitely important to hire an attorney if the other parent has already retained an attorney. If that’s the case, you’re already behind the legal 8-ball and will need to catch up. and ensure legal requirements are not missed.

When you hire an attorney, you can be at the cause and not the effect of the situation. Without a lawyer, you’ll likely be at the whim of whatever filing the other parent and their attorney submit.

3. Your Ex Is Trying to Keep the Kids from You

Sometimes, the other parent is flat-out being aggressive in trying to deny you your rights to your kids.  This is of course not the mandate behind share parenting.

As long as you’re not abusive or unfit, you have every right to get a child custody arrangement that lets you see your child, and share in the time caring for your child and the responsibility.

If your ex is playing games, creating roadblocks, or breaking the law to keep you from your child, you’ll definitely want to get in touch with an attorney immediately. Your lawyer can intervene and expedite the process of getting in front of a judge and putting a halt to these sorts of actions.

Having a lawyer encourage and facilitate order also puts a third-party between you and the situation, which can help deescalate your involvement. That’s important since these situations are emotionally charged and can open up an entirely different can of worms. Sometimes your strong and emotional attachment can cause definite difficulty for yourself.

4. You Believe Your Child Is in Danger or Being Mistreated

When you believe that your child is in danger, you’ll need to report mistreatment or get in touch with Child Protective Services.

Having a lawyer get involved will not just protect your rights as a parent, but it’ll also get your child out of a potentially abusive or dangerous situation. Your attorney also has enough of a handle on the law to put together evidence that can be useful in pursuing criminal charges as well.

5. A Court Order Has Been Issued

When a judge issues a court order, you’ll definitely need to get the help of an attorney.

A court order dictates concrete custody for shared parenting and visitation schedule. Each state has its own laws in this regard, so you need to figure out how you must respond based on where you live.

In many situations, you’ll be hiring a lawyer so that you can address the order that was filed, to either enforce or modify the order. Having an attorney lets you explain your case in detail, and assert your parental rights.

It’s important to assert your position at a final hearing so your shared parenting is protected.

6. You’ve Been Forced to Take Anger Management or Other Classes

Family court orders often come with a series of stipulations. One situation that people run into is having to take anger management classes, share parenting or other counseling.

There’s nothing at all wrong with anger management, but if you feel like you’ve been wrongfully ordered by the court, it can put your custody rights at risk.

This sometimes happens when a parent tries to sway the judge against the other and engage in sharing. They may fabricate or exaggerate certain stories to paint the other as someone unable to control their anger so that the judge limits access to the child.

Since these types of tactics are nefarious and damaging, you’ll absolutely want the help of a child custody attorney, who can ensure the share parenting laws are being followed.

7. There Have Been Some Significant Complications to the Case

Don’t wait until you’re in over your head to call a lawyer. There are situations where your case starts in a straightforward manner but then becomes more complicated.

For instance, you may begin filing for joint custody or share parental responsibilities, but then your ex begins to get evasive or less cooperative. Or maybe they started a relationship with someone that you don’t feel comfortable having around your kids, and you gro concerned for their safety.

Since these matters get so complicated, you’ll definitely need the help of a lawyer that can jump to your defense.

8. The Case Has Several Complex Matters

As time goes on, the case can become more complex due to life changes. You or your former spouse could have remarried or even had another child by the time family court hearings conclude.

You may have also significantly increased or decreased your income, moved to another area, or have differences of opinion on where to send your child to school. In fact, if the two of you are having significant differences of opinion on how to raise the children, these matters will need to be hashed out in court as well.

Your attorney can help you in court, in addition to opening channels to negotiate an agreement with the other parent and their attorney. Many child custody lawyers are also skilled mediators, which can come in handy with these cases, and ensuring the shared parenting is working for your unique family.

9. Your Child Custody Case Is Costly

If your child custody case is costing you a bit of money, it’s best to bring an attorney on board to make sure your money is being spent productively, which in Florida is known as share parental responsibility, sole parental responsibility or ultimate decision making responsibility.

When your case involves any sort of disputes over getting sole custody, partial custody, or joint custody, you’ll need an attorney that can sort out the details. A child custody case that continuously goes back and forth with multiple hearings might cost you thousands and thousands of dollars, so make sure that you are spending this money in a way that works out for you.

With access to an attorney, you’ll optimize this spending, rather than spending money on trial and error while DIYing your case.

10. You Received a Summons for a Hearing

Once you’re hit with a summons, you’ll need to craft a proper response. By working with an attorney, you’ll be able to respond to the summons in a way that helps your case, and ensures the court will hear your side of the case.

When you fail to respond to the summons in a timely manner, or not at all, your ex has the right to move forward in the case and receive a court judgment without your participation.

Having an attorney that you can strategize with lets you know when to file for continuances to buy more time, how to prepare for any hearing that you have to fulfill, and argue your case to the fullest.

Know What to Look for in an Attorney

Finally, be sure that you choose wisely when looking for a child custody lawyer, no matter where your case may be.

Find someone that fits your sensibilities, and who responds promptly whenever you have a question. Be sure that you have access to an attorney that can prioritize your case, and who you trust to handle it from start to finish.

You’re always better off finding a great attorney by getting references and taking your time to make the wisest decision.

Hire a Child Custody Lawyer for Your Case

When you need the help of a child custody lawyer, it’s important that you do some research. These are the primary situations in which you should definitely call in a custody attorney.

At the Law Office of Erin Morse, you’ll get attentive care for any child custody situation. We can help whether you’re creating a court order, trying to negotiate custody arrangements, or need help modifying a judge’s decision.

We’d be happy to offer you a consultation for your case.

If you need help with a child custody case, contact us for more information.