Under Florida law, all parenting and time-sharing decisions are based on what courts believe to be in the best interest of the child. While Florida courts favor parents sharing responsibilities for their children as much as possible following divorce, those decisions must take the child’s welfare and parents’ fitness into account.
Child custody is divided into two categories: time-sharing and parental responsibility. Both can be agreed upon by the parties and then accepted by the judge, or determined by the judge alone. Time-sharing refers to where the child will physically live. Parental responsibility involves the ability to make decisions regarding the child’s development, schooling, health, religion, and other important matters.
Because Florida family law encourages parents to share the rights and responsibilities of parenting after a divorce, the wording in the relevant statutes was changed in 2008: “physical custody” became known as “time-sharing,” and “legal custody” became known as “parental responsibility.” These terms reflect a greater emphasis on the importance of divorced parents sharing responsibility for raising their children. The changes also mean that neither parent begins a custody proceeding with a presumption of right to custody. Therefore, each parent will begin on equal footing in the eyes of the court.
In custody decisions, judges make determinations based on factors that include:
- The ability of each parent to have a close relationship with the child and communicate with the other parent on issues involving the child
- The ability of each parent to participate in the child’s school and extracurricular activities
- The demonstrated capacity of each parent to “determine, consider, and act upon” the needs of the child rather than their own needs or desires
- The length of time the child has lived in a healthy, stable environment and the desirability of maintaining that environment
- The willingness of each parent to honor the time-sharing schedule and to be reasonable when changes are required.
While the decisions affecting where your child will live and with whom ultimately rest with the court, it’s in your best interests to be represented by a skilled custody lawyer who will press your interests and protect your bonds with your child.
If you’re a divorcing parent of minor children in Florida, contact an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible to discuss your custody concerns. The Law Offices of Lawrence S. Katz, P.A. draws on extensive experience representing clients in time-sharing and parental responsibility matters. Call us at 786-991-2629 or contact us online to arrange a consultation at our Miami office.