At the beginning of May 2020, the City of Orlando gave thousands of nominees to a very specific categories for Orlando Weekly’a Best of 2020. And because of your love and support, The Law Office of Erin Morse was able to lock in two very important categories; Best Kept Secret and Best Local Big Shot Who’s Not an Elected Official. We are honored that we have been nominated with some of Orlando’s biggest personalities, businesses and organizations. The final round runs June 24 through Aug. 2 and only you can help us. Just like last time, click the link below to the Local Color Section and scroll down to Best Kept Secret and Best Local Big Shot Who’s Not an Elected Official and vote Erin Morse.

 

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’re going through a child custody battle, you may have heard about third party custody. We explain what it is and what parents need to know about it.

There are times when a parent or both parents can’t take care of their child anymore. It can happen for a variety of different reasons, which range from tragic when the cause is due to neglect or abuse to sad when a single parent is no longer able to take care of their child. This may be due to a single parent becoming incarcerated.

It can also happen when a parent has mental health or physical reasons they can no longer take care of their child. That’s when a third-party custody arrangement is often sought. Most people don’t know about third party custody unless they one day need it and by then, it’s like trying to catch up with a moving train to take it all in through digestible legal learning chunks.

Read on if you’re involved in a third-party child custody battle or you think one may be happening soon. The informational guide below will explain what third party custody is and how it works, who it affects and how it impacts your life.

What is Third Party Custody?

Florida family law states a non-parent can be given custody of a child through a number of legal channels. There are legal standards and criteria that must be met for all non-parent custody petitions in Florida. A few examples when third party custody can be filed are:

  1. A third party can be given custody if a biological parent provides voluntary consent by signing a document terminating their parental rights. The document enables the court to turn the child over to another family member. Most of the time, if a biological parent is giving another family member custody of their child, a legal advocate will help them go through the legal process.
  2. There are times when a child’s well-being is at risk when they are in the care of their biological parent or parents. A concerned family member can file a third-party petition for concurrent or temporary custody. The third-party petition is filed in the Unified Family Court.
    • If the biological parents don’t consent to this custody arrangement, the family member seeking custody must meet a high standard of proof in court to show the parents to be unfit to care for the child.

In summary, Florida family law allows for a third party relative to petition the court for custody under special circumstances if it’s in the best interest of the child. There are special circumstances and times when the court awards permanent custody of the child to a third party like a child’s grandparents.

The Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

Florida law states that the courts decide child custody based on the best interests of the child. The best interest of the child has criteria listed under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The UCCJEA is a national set of laws that governs child custody throughout the country.

Child custody is defined as having legal and physical custody, and as such parents with custody are allowed to make decisions about their child’s education, religion, medical care, where they live and discipline. If parents are unable to agree on these decisions, the court can intervene but third-party custody is a much tougher legal bar to reach to get successfully adjudicated in court. Third-party custody can be filed for when a child’s well-being is at risk when they are in the care of their biological parent or parents.

Florida Courts Define Child Custody Terms

If you live in Florida, its the judges who get to decide who gets legal custody, physical custody, joint custody, or third party custody. Judges also determine parental responsibilities and this is when third-party custody comes into play if it’s needed. Third-party custody always takes into consideration several factors.

Of course, the primary and most important consideration a judge considers is what’s in the best interest of the child. It can be helpful if the child is older and can relay their wishes or if the biological parent petitions the court for a third-party custodian for their child. The judge will also take into consideration the best interests of the child based on the relationship the child has with the third party.

Third-Party Custody Rights

If you don’t have the consent of the parents, you must factually represent what has happened to the child who has been abandoned, abused, or neglected by the parent or parents. The definition of abandoned, abused and neglected are found in Florida Statutes Section 39.01. The State of Florida will always defer to the custodial relationship with the parents in a custody situation if its healthy, safe, and if the parent or parents want it.

If you are awarded third party custody rights as a non-parental relative, you’ve already presented a compelling case regarding why you should be awarded custody. But even if you were granted child custody as a non-parental relative those custody rights are granted in temporary form only most of the time. The Supreme Court determined temporary custody for non-parental relatives in Florida through the 2012 Florida case of Slover v. Meyer. 

Florida Case of Slover v. Meyer

The Florida custody dispute of Slover v. Meyer originated between a father’s natural father and the child’s maternal grandparents. The child’s mother was deceased and the child’s maternal grandparents were seeking custody over the father because they felt he was unfit to care for the child due to his history of drug abuse. Evidence was given to the court that proved the father did have a drug abuse problem however the father testified he was seeking drug treatment to help him with his addiction.

The court took the father’s willingness to seek drug abuse treatment into consideration but still awarded temporary custody of the child to the grandparents. But the court also gave the father supervised visitation rights for the next year. If the father could keep up his abstinence from drugs and continue treatment, the father would be allowed unsupervised access to his child.

Over the next year, the father proved to the court he had conquered his addiction and was able to care for his child. At that time, the court modified the custody arrangement and the father’s custody rights were restored. Third-party custody with a non-parental relative is usually temporary in Florida unless there is a compelling, legal reason to give it permanent standing in the court.

Typical Third Party Custody Family Law Form 12.970 (a)

The typical third party custody agreement application starts with you filing the Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.970 (a) Petition for Temporary Custody by Extended Family. The third-party custody agreement form is what’s needed when you wish to obtain temporary custody of a child or children pursuant to Chapter 751, Florida Statutes. You are considered an extended family member if you are:

  • A relative of a minor child within the third degree to the parent by blood or marriage
  • The stepparent of a minor child if the stepparent is currently married to the parent of the child and isn’t a party to any pending dissolution, separate maintenance, domestic violence, or any other civil or criminal court proceeding. This civil or criminal court proceeding cannot be of a competent jurisdiction involving one or both of the child’s parents as an adverse party.
  • You can file for temporary custody if you have a signed and notarized consent of the child’s legal parent or parents.

You can also file if you’re an extended family member who is caring full time for the child in the role of substitute parent with whom the child has been living for some time and where the child is currently living. If the parent or parents don’t give you consent, you’re going to need a family law attorney to help you fill out the agreement and file the forms in the appropriate court.

Third-Party Guardianship

You can find more information about Florida’s third-party guardianship in Chapter 744, Florida Statutes. The court rules that the relationships between the court, the minor, the guardian, and others have statutes and rules that describe the specific duties and obligations as guardians. These statutes and rules are in place to help protect the best interest of the minor.

The guardian serves as a surrogate decision-maker that’s appointed by the court to make either personal or financial decisions for the minor or even for an adult if they have mental or physical disabilities. After the court adjudicates the case, the guardianship is termed a ‘ward.’

Your Next Step

Your next step may be your most important one if you are seeking third party custody. There’s nothing easy about this court process and you need to be prepared for everything while hoping for the best. Child custody is emotionally stressful no matter the circumstances but if you’re involved in third party custody issues, need the best counsel a family law attorney can give you.

Reach out to The Law Office of Erin Morse so the child that needs you doesn’t lose one more day to uncertainty and fear. No child should ever be left in an unsafe or unknown home. With the help of the Law Office of Erin Morse, you’ll come to know this law office serves as one of the child’s most fierce child advocates and they won’t stop until the child is safe and in a healthy environment.

 

 

 

 

Divorce can be a stressful experience, especially when children are involved. Learn how to create a solid parenting plan that works for both parties.

Divorce rates are on the decline, but 39% of marriages will still end in divorce.

If you’re facing a divorce, you’re no doubt entering one of the most stressful events of your life. If you have children, your worries are compounded.

Who will get custody of the kids? How can you create structure in their lives while your own life is unraveling? Most importantly, how can you ensure your kids receive the love and attention they need?

Many kids experience difficulties after a divorce, including behavioral problems and poor academic performance. But that doesn’t have to be the case with your children. The key lies in creating (and executing) a successful parenting plan.

What is a parenting plan? Why is it so important? And how can you create one that works for your family’s unique circumstances?

In this post, we’ll discuss those questions and more. Read on to learn how to write a parenting plan for court and your own personal use.

What Is a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a legal document that outlines how you and your ex will care for your children after the divorce. It is generally required by the family court as part of the divorce process.

The plan should include every major aspect of your kids’ lives, including custody, visitation, and communication methods. (We’ll discuss this in more detail later).

If possible, you and your ex should be the ones to create the parenting plan, since you know your kids and your circumstances best. If you aren’t able to reach an agreement, the court may take steps to create a plan for you or suggest the services of a family law attorney.

What Should I Know Before Creating a Parenting Plan?

Although a parenting plan is a legal document, it doesn’t need to include technical or legal jargon. What it should include is plenty of details outlining how you and your ex will handle your responsibilities.

The court wants to see that your plan will provide a safe, stable, and loving environment for your kids. They want the assurance that your children’s physical and emotional needs will continue to be met.

Of course, your circumstances are different than any other couple in the midst of a divorce. A parenting plan template is a great place to start, but you need to customize it to fit the unique needs of your family.

Remember: The parenting plan is for the benefit of your kids, not yourself. You need to be willing to make compromises and be accommodating to whatever is in your kids’ best interests.

The most common mistake couples make is writing a plan that’s too vague. Include every detail and scenario you can think of, such as who will pay for medical expenses and what happens if one or both parents decide to relocate. You’ll also want to explain how you’ll resolve disagreements and if your kids are allowed to travel out-of-state or abroad.

When reviewing your plan, the court will evaluate:

  • Each parent’s health and ability to provide for their kids
  • Your children’s age and maturity level
  • Proximity to the extended family
  • Proximity to established schools or religious organizations
  • Any plans for one or both parents to relocate
  • Everyone’s preferences on custody arrangements (each parent and each child)
  • Any past or present legal misconduct

If possible, it’s best to work on this plan together. If you can’t reach an agreement, each parent may submit their own plan to the court for consideration and approval.

Parenting Plan Template: What to Include

Now that you’ve got an overview of the plan, let’s discuss specific items you should include.

1. Living Arrangements & Scheduling

This is the basis for your plan, as it outlines how each parent will physically provide for the children.

Will your kids live primarily in one residence or divide their time evenly between both of you? Who is responsible for pickup and drop-off? Will you bring your children’s belongings back and forth, or will your kids have two sets of most items?

What about daycare or babysitting arrangements? How will each parent communicate with their children when they’re visiting the other? When and where will the children spend time with their friends, and who will transport them to events such as parties or after-school activities?

You should also discuss how you’ll handle any changes or disruptions to the normal schedule. What if it’s necessary to make a change due to illness, special occasions, or an unforeseen event? How much notice will you give, and will there be make-up time for missed visitation?

2. Holidays, Vacations, & Events

Will your kids spend certain holidays with the same parent each year? Or will you alternate between households?

Create a plan for:

  • Religious holidays
  • Secular holidays
  • School breaks
  • Summer vacation
  • Birthdays
  • Mother’s Day
  • Father’s Day
  • Graduation
  • Weddings and funerals

Again, include as many details as possible, including transportation, length of stay, or any plans to “split” the time over certain holidays.

3. Health Matters

Who will provide medical and dental insurance (if any) for the children? How will you make decisions about routine or emergency treatments?

What about arrangements for routine checkups or dentist visits? Who will take the kids to these appointments? Who will take time off work and stay home if one of the children gets sick?

Will each of you have access to your children’s medical records? What about arranging for any special needs like eyeglasses, speech therapy, or orthodontia? How will you make decisions that are in your child’s best interest?

4. School & Extra-Curriculars

Where will your children attend school? Will they enroll in a special program or require tutoring after hours?

What about parent-teacher conferences or other school events? Who will attend? Who will pay for school trips, lunches, or other related expenses?

What if your child must be absent for any reason? Can either parent take the child out of school for the day? What circumstances are allowable (or not) for the child to miss school?

If your child plays sports or belongs to an after-school club, who will handle transportation arrangements and associated costs? Will both of you attend games or competitions?

5. Religion & Culture

Will your household include any religious instruction or activities? Will your kids accompany you to church or other religious services? How will you make these decisions?

What about relevant cultural events and activities? If you live in a bilingual household, what will be the primary language spoken at home? Will your children be instructed in a second or third language?

Consider the extended family too, such as grandparents. How often and when will they visit, and who will be there during the visits? How can the extended family communicate with your children?

What about everyday lifestyle and discipline? What rules will be in place for bedtime, allowance, homework, dating, and other expectations?

6. Communication Between Parents

How will you and your ex communicate after the divorce is finalized? Over the phone, by email, in person?

How will you keep track of your children’s schedules? Will there be a written or virtual calendar available where you can access and add relevant events?

How much notice will you give in the event of travel plans, schedule changes, or other disruptions? How often will you communicate about your children? What about emergencies—how will you get in contact with each other?

Other Factors to Consider

Your divorce may be contentious, but try to take a step back and be reasonable when it comes to your kids. You may no longer love your ex, but your kids likely still do.

Focus on creating a plan that will help them maintain a strong relationship with each of you. If they’re old enough, consider their preferences about who they’ll live with and how they’ll spend time with each of you.

If you have legitimate concerns about your ex’s ability to care for the children, put it in writing. You may not agree with certain aspects of their parenting style, but this is different than concerns over binge drinking or drug use.

Most of all, avoid putting your kids in the middle of your divorce. Assure them of your continued love and support during and after the process. Respect their needs by enjoying the time they’re with you and avoid criticizing what your ex chooses to do.

Do You Need Help With Your Parenting Plan?

Some couples are able to sit down and create an effective parenting plan on their own.

But what if the relationship is strained and civil communication is difficult (or impossible)? This is where a lawyer experienced in family law and child custody can help.

Your divorce is undoubtedly stressful, but making a parenting plan doesn’t have to be. It just takes time and consideration to decide what will work for you and your ex—and what is ultimately best for your children.

Are you going through a divorce in the Orlando area? Don’t go it alone.

We can help with all aspects of the divorce process, including assistance with your parenting plan. Contact our law office today with any questions or concerns.

Divorce is difficult, but there are steps you can take to make it easier. Read on to learn how to have a peaceful divorce.

The divorce rate in the US is around 40% to 50% of all marriages. While you may have initially thought you found your soulmate, maybe things have changed. And despite trying to work out your differences, you’ve grown too far apart and divorce is the only logical next step.

Reaching this decision isn’t an easy one, especially if there are children involved. Your friends may have gone through messy divorces themselves, and you want to do everything you can to avoid the same fate.

If you’d like to have a peaceful divorce so you can move on with your life better, then read on. We’ve got some helpful tips on how to do so.

Don’t Place Blame on One Another

When things get bad, it can be easy to blame one another for the failure of your marriage. Maybe you think your wife hasn’t paid enough attention to you in the last few years, or maybe she thinks you’ve been too focused on growing your career.

At this point, it doesn’t do any good to point fingers at one another. Trying to pinpoint exactly what made the marriage fail will just make both of you extremely bitter, which will set the tone for a messy and ugly divorce.

Once you’ve reached a place where both of you agree 100% that you should divorce, that should be it. Don’t try to assign a reason to the divorce; just agree it’s better for the two of you if you go your separate ways.

If you leave blame out of it, then you’ll stand a much better chance of having an amicable and peaceful divorce.

Don’t Be Petty

Those who don’t feel slighted by their exes may be tempted to be petty in the divorce process. For example, maybe your ex really loves your shared car, and just to make her suffer, you want to take it in the divorce.

But by doing this, you’re just dragging out the divorce longer. Since it’s such a treasured possession of hers, she’ll most likely fight you on this, which can end up in more meetings with the lawyer and time in court.

Instead of trying to exact revenge, try and be the bigger person. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should acquiesce to everything your ex wants.

What you should do is sit down and think about the big picture. What is it you truly want and can’t compromise on? Once you figure that out, everything else will be trivial.

The two of you should come together and discuss these non-negotiable needs and see if you can work around them.

Be Honest and Open

While in the midst of a divorce, some people will try to hide their assets so they don’t get cleared out by their ex in the process. But by doing so, you may entangle yourself in much more legal messes.

We’re not saying you should be best friends with your ex while you’re getting divorced, but both of you should be able to discuss all your assets and income without hiding anything.

By doing so, you’ll be doing a “good faith negotiation” with your ex-spouse. When the two of you can openly discuss everything, this makes it a lot easier to resolve any financial issues. This is especially important if you have children with them.

If you weren’t the spouse that handled the financial side of things in the marriage, this can give you a better picture of what the two of you shared. That way, you can have better trust and keep the divorce more amicable.

Put the Needs of Your Children First

Again, while you’re separating from your spouse, it’s tempting to find any ammo against them and use it. Often, parents end up using their children as pawns in the game of divorce. While it may be temporarily satisfying, it ends up being harmful to everyone involved.

Make it clear to your ex that the welfare of your children come first. You may want to consider divorce mediation, as this lets you discuss your children’s needs with a neutral third party present.

Always use positive language when discussing issues involving your kids. Always ask for your ex’s input so they feel involved instead of pushed away by you.

How you work together during the divorce can be extremely beneficial for the future, as it lays down the groundwork for you working successfully as co-parents.

Have a Good Support System

Not only can going through a divorce on your own be lonely, but it can really take a toll on your mental health as well. If you aren’t feeling 100% emotionally, you may end up taking it out on your ex. Needless to say, that won’t end up in a peaceful divorce at all.

Make sure you have a good support system consisting of close friends and family members. When you’re alone, it can be tempting to self-medicate in unhealthy ways. The after-effects won’t be so pleasant, plus it can kickstart a downward spiral.

If you have friends and family you can rely on, you can turn to them in times of need instead of self-medicating. Sometimes, all it takes is calling someone up for a chat for you to feel better and stronger. This can leave you more clear and levelheaded to deal with your divorce.

Have a Peaceful Divorce and Get Along With Your Ex

Just because you’re going through a divorce doesn’t mean it can’t be amicable. With our guide to a peaceful divorce, hopefully, you can navigate this difficult time of your life with more ease and tranquility.

If you need a divorce lawyer to help you through this process, then get in touch with us today. Not only can we assist you with your divorce, but we can also advise you on other related subjects, such as alimony and child custody.

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.