Florida Child Custody: Procedure

One of the more contentious issues in a divorce can be the battle over who gets custody of the children from the marriage. For a parent going through a divorce, one of the key issues may be whether or not your child primarily lives with them and what amount of control the parent will have over important decisions that deal with how their child will be raised. Child custody issues are not only raised during a divorce proceeding. It may be that a relative or family friend of a child wishes to gain custody over a child for various reasons. Regardless of who is seeking custody, however, a court will always evaluate the circumstances in terms of what is in the best interests of the child.

Florida Parenting Plans and Custody Orders

In the case of divorce, parents will need to determine with whom the children will live and how the other parent will visit with the children. Also, they will need to determine who will have the responsibility of making important education and health care decisions regarding the child. Oftentimes, parents are able to work out a mutually agreeable solution, known as a "parenting plan," for the custody of the children.

If parents cannot reach an agreement on child custody themselves, a Florida family court can make a decision based on evaluating what is in the best interests of the child. Ultimately, the court will issue a custody order which will dictate how, when and under what circumstances the parents of the child have custody or visitation rights with their child.

Petitioning for Custody in Florida

If a parent has already started their divorce proceeding, the custody of their child will be determined during such proceeding. If a parent remains married and not yet divorced, they would file a petition for child custody in the circuit court where the child lives. If a father is not married, they will need to determine paternity prior to filing a petition for child custody. The court will order DNA testing and enter a parenting plan dealing with each parent's responsibility and a time-sharing arrangement, as well as entering an order for child support. If a parent is in a situation of domestic violence, they may file for temporary custody of the child in order to ensure that the child is not harmed.

Florida courts shall order that both parents share custody of the child unless one parent is able to prove that it would be detrimental to the child for the other parent to have time-sharing rights with the child. Florida child custody laws favor a child's frequent and continuing contact with both parents, and that both parents have the opportunity to share the rights, responsibilities and joys of raising their child.

Florida's child custody laws can be complex. Be sure to contact a Florida child custody lawyer if you have additional questions or require counsel.

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