Many couples stay in miserable marriages for a couple of main reasons. In some cases, money is a factor. Divorces can be expensive, and it is often more practical to just stay together. Another reason why people may delay divorce is because of the children. Many couples stay together because they do not want to split up the family and put the kids through all the stress and drama.
Along the same line, child custody is a concern. When a couple is married, the family sees each other pretty much every day. In a divorce, the parents separate and the children may not spend as much time with both parents. Custody may be split 50/50 or some other percentage. In some cases, one parent is awarded sole custody, with the other parent being able to visit on an irregular basis.
Despite the fact that their time with the children will be reduced, many couples opt for divorce anyway. However, one of the main issues of contention in their divorce is child custody. Many are concerned their bond with the children will weaken. Some are unclear of the laws that apply. Others have questions about the process for determining custody.
Whatever your situation, if you are divorcing and children are involved, you obviously want the best outcome possible. You want to have a good relationship with your children and make sure they are well cared for. Read on to learn more about child custody in Florida so you know what to expect when you decide to end your marriage.
What Types of Child Custody are There?
Florida recognizes several types of child custody. The default is joint physical and legal custody, which assumes 50% custody for each parent. The child spends an equal amount of time with both parents. Joint custody may allow for various types of physical arrangements. For example, a child may spend three to four days with one parent, and then three to four days with the other parent. The child may spend the week with one parent, and then spend weekends and holidays with the other parent. Both parents have the ability to make major decisions about the child, such as education, medical care and religion. Joint custody is often hard to enforce because it requires cooperation and communication from both parents, which is not always possible in contentious divorces.
In rare cases, a judge may opt for sole custody. While 50/50 custody is assumed, the best interests of the child are taken into consideration. If one parent is abusive, has a drug or alcohol addiction or is incarcerated, then it may be better for the children to stay with one parent only.
Florida also recognizes a unique type of custody called rotating custody. It is similar to joint custody, but each parent has custody of the child for six months at a time.
What are the Best Interests of the Child?
When making custody decisions, judges look at the best interests of the child. Basically, judges want children to fare well physically and emotionally, so they want them to be cared for by the parent who will do the best job. Therefore, the judge will look at various factors, such as the child’s age and physical and emotional health. They will also look at the physical and mental health of both parents, as well as their ability to care for the child. Does the child have more of a bond with one parent? Is one parent unable to keep a job and care for the child financially? Is there abuse or addiction present? Older children may have a say in with whom they will stay. Judges are more likely to listen to the wishes of an older child than a younger child.
Can a Parent Move With the Child?
There are situations in which a parent may want to move to another state to be closer to family or make more money at a new job. The parent will need to discuss this situation with the court. Moving far away could affect their custody order and jeopardize the other parent’s visitation and custody rights with the child. If any modification to the original custody order needs to be made, the parent will need approval from the court before taking any action. If the parent takes the child out of the state without telling anyone—especially the other parent—then they could face criminal action and be charged with kidnapping.
Can a Third Party Get Custody of the Child?
For the most part, the judges favor biological parents when awarding custody. However, there may be situations in which neither parent should get custody of the child. This can happen in cases of disability, death, addiction, abuse, or incarceration. If it is clear to the judge that both parents are unfit, then custody may be awarded to a grandparent or other close relative, such as an aunt, uncle, or adult sibling. A relative can also petition for custody if they feel the child is in danger by being in their parents’ custody.
Seek Legal Help
If you are divorcing and children are involved, you may be concerned about their future. With whom will they live? How often will you be able to see them?
Palm Beach divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler can address your concerns regarding child custody and help you understand the state laws involved. Contact our office and schedule a consultation. Call (954) 346-6464 today.