Child Custody Laws in Florida

Child Custody Laws in Florida

Child Custody Laws in Florida


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. 




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