Understanding Florida Child Custody Laws

Florida child custody laws are in-line with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, as per the U.S. Department of Justice. This act limits and prevents parents seeking to remove their child from another parent’s presence from interstate child kidnapping – especially without going through the legal custody process meant to evaluate parental responsibility.

Otherwise, Florida child custody laws are like those in many other states – the state of Florida does not favor one parent over the other based on gender. The courts prefer shared or joint custody, and processes exist for parents to seek mediation. If needed, there are also procedures in place to determine which parent gets sole custody, and who gets visitation rights (and of what nature) – judges make these decisions.

Child custody in Florida is either physical (living space) or legal (decision-making). In many cases of sole custody, the parent with custodial rights controls both physical and legal custody over their child. Grandparents do have visitation rights in Florida, so long as they do not hinder or obstruct a parent’s rights. The child’s own wishes also carry weight, depending on the maturity of the child and the strength of their argument in the eyes of a family court judge.

Who Usually Wins a Custody Battle?

Even with the legal non-gender-bias in place, most custody cases are still won by women. But the statistic has slowly yet steadily been shifting towards a better balance. Courts in the United States recognize that both parents are important in the upbringing of a child. Above all else, though, the child’s best interests are the main factors taken into consideration. This is important, as it also determines how the custody case itself will go.

If both parents disagree on aspects of their parenting plan and cannot come to an agreement on matters of legal and physical custody, they may be referred to work with a professional mediator (an experienced and professional third party) to help them through the process. Failing that, a judge may have to intervene to determine how to divide parental rights and responsibilities. Major factors that determine who is most likely to win sole custody include which parent is better able to do the following:

Nurture child’s emotional, physical, educational and developmental needs.
Maintain a healthy and stable parent-child relationship.
Work with the other parent to involve them in their child’s future.
Cooperate with the other parent.

The courts are also more likely to determine sole custody if there is evidence that one parent poses a serious risk or danger to the child. A parent must petition for sole custody through the court. That parent must show proof/evidence that the other parent is a danger to the child, either due to previous behavior or current ongoing behavior. 

Encouraging Healthy Co-Parenting

Joint physical custody is better than sole custody in cases where it can be amicably arranged. Joint physical custody is also becoming a rising trend in America. Yet it takes more than a handshake to arrange successful co-parenting after a split. Florida, like other states, necessitates a written parenting plan for parents to co-author and mutually approve. This plan details parenting time, physical and legal custody, as well as a process to settle disputes if any should arise in the future. A judge must approve all parenting plans, which are then legally-binding. Keep in mind that Florida courts (like many other states) prefer if parents can co-parent effectively and will vie each parents attempts to be amicable as a positive (or a negative, if a parent won’t even try).

When to Seek Legal Help

Choosing to act against the rules set by a parenting plan may open a parent up to be sued for contempt of court, due to defying a court order. A parent may also be penalized if they actively sabotage the other parent’s rights to see and interact with their children, or try to sway their children’s opinions of the other parent (committing parental alienation). If you feel that your rights as a parent, under Florida child custody laws, are being undermined in your custody case, it’s important to consult a legal professional and get help.


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