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Child Custody Laws in Florida

Child Custody Laws in Florida

Child Custody Laws in Florida

Child custody is a major issue in divorce proceedings, and it is essential that parents understand the child custody laws in the state of Florida.

Legal and Physical Custody

In Florida, child custody involves both legal and physical custody. Legal custody gives parents the right to make major decisions regarding their child’s upbringing, including education, healthcare, and religion. Physical custody determines where the child will live and is often referred to as “time-sharing.”

Types of Custody

Florida recognizes two types of child custody – sole custody and shared custody. Sole custody gives one parent the right to make all major decisions for the child and determines where the child lives. Shared custody, also known as joint custody, means that both parents share decision-making responsibilities and parenting time.

Best Interest of the Child

When deciding child custody, Florida courts consider the best interest of the child. This means taking into account factors such as the child’s emotional bond with each parent, the parent’s ability to provide a stable home environment, and the parent’s history of domestic violence or substance abuse.

Parenting Plan

Parents must submit a parenting plan to the court detailing how they will handle time-sharing and decision-making responsibilities. The parenting plan must include a schedule for when the child will be with each parent, how major decisions will be made, and how parents will communicate with each other.

Modification of Custody

Custody can be modified if a significant change has occurred for either the parent or the child. For example, if one parent has moved out of state or if the child’s needs have changed, the custody can be modified. However, a court will only modify custody if it is in the best interest of the child.

Enforcement of Custody

If a parent violates a custody order, they could face penalties such as fines or imprisonment. Custody orders are legally binding and must be followed.


Child custody is a complex and emotional issue, and it is important to have an understanding of the laws in Florida. When dealing with child custody, it is crucial to keep the best interest of the child in mind and ensure that any parenting plans and custody arrangements are legally binding and enforceable.



Over the past ten years, Florida’s child custody laws and regulations have undergone significant changes, reflecting the state’s commitment to prioritizing the best interests of children involved in custody disputes. This article outlines key updates in Florida’s child custody laws and regulations from 2013 to 2023.

2013: Child’s Best Interests Focus

   – Adoption of the child’s best interests standard as the primary consideration in custody determinations.

2014: Shared Custody Promotion

   – Promotion of shared custody arrangements to encourage active involvement of both parents.

2015: Parenting Plans Requirement

   – Introduction of mandatory parenting plans outlining custody, visitation, and support arrangements.

2016: Child’s Preferences Consideration

   – Consideration of the child’s preferences in custody decisions based on age and maturity.

2017: Grandparent Visitation Recognition

   – Recognition of grandparent visitation rights in custody proceedings.

2018: Domestic Violence Protections

   – Strengthened provisions to safeguard children from exposure to domestic violence.

2019: Mediation Emphasis

   – Emphasis on mediation to amicably resolve custody disputes.

2020: Technology-Enabled Visitation

   – Recognition of technology-enabled visitation for non-custodial parents to maintain contact.

2021: Military Deployment Consideration

   – Consideration of the impact of military deployment on custody arrangements.

2022: Child Support Alignment

   – Alignment of child custody and child support processes for consistency.

2023: Relocation Guidelines

   – Introduction of guidelines for parents seeking to relocate with their child, emphasizing stability.

Florida’s ongoing commitment to adapting child custody laws underscores the state’s dedication to the well-being of children and families. Staying informed about these changes is essential for parents and legal professionals navigating custody matters.

Guide to Child Custody Laws in Florida

It can be difficult to make decisions about child custody, especially if your separation or divorce has been emotionally tense. Understanding child custody laws in Florida can help Florida parents to make a plan that suits their own needs and the needs of their children.

This guide will explain to you some of the terminology used in child custody laws in Florida, as well as some of the laws themselves.

Parenting Plans

Most parents feel that they can come to some sort of agreement that will allow them both the time they need with their children.

If both parents can agree about how they want parenting responsibilities divided, child custody laws in Florida allow them to draft a parenting plan.

This plan must be detailed and include which parent will be responsible for making certain types of decisions.

However, child custody laws in Florida mandate that the parenting plan is not final until it is approved by a judge, who can only certify it if it is seen to be in the best interests of the child.

If the judge does not see the parenting plan offered by the parents as being in the child’s interest, the judge may re-draft the parenting plan.

Sole Parental Responsibility

Florida family courts have transitioned away from using the term “sole custody” in favor of the term “sole parental responsibility.”

Child custody laws in Florida allow for sole parental responsibility whenever the court determines that it is in the child’s best interest. It is often used in cases where one parent has been abusive or neglectful.

If one parent has sole parental responsibility, that parent will not only have physical possession of the child, but also legal decision-making ability.

The parent will have final decision-making authority over small, behavioral rules as well as major life decisions like relocation or medical treatment.

Shared Parental Responsibility

Child custody laws in Florida specify that unless the judge rules it would be harmful to the child, shared parental responsibility will be awarded in child custody cases.

Depending on the judge’s custody order, one parent may be given authority in some areas of the child’s life (like school) or both parents may have to come together to agree on major decisions for their child.

One of the biggest reasons that judges do not award shared parental responsibility is abuse or neglect.

Often, if one parent has been violent, the level of control and power they might have in shared decision-making will be considered unacceptable by the court.

Even if both spouses agree to shared parental responsibility in a parenting plan, child custody laws in Florida allow a judge to award sole responsibility based on abuse or neglect from the other parent.


Time-sharing, also called visitation, is usually awarded to a parent who does not have primary custody.

Time-sharing will involve using a schedule created by either the parents or the court.

Child custody laws in Florida permit the court to allow only supervised visitation if unsupervised visitation would put a child at risk of harm.