Child custody can be a stressful issue among parents. Even if the parents can generally get along, issues such as who has visitation on holidays, birthday or major events can cause hiccups along the road. In the event of a disagreement regarding child custody, the situation can quickly become contentious, given the stakes involved are someone's own child. Florida takes many things into account when determining who should have custody of a child. Below are a few of the most common things you should know about child custody in Florida.
Legal vs. Physical Custody
There are two different types of child custody in Florida, legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to a parent's ability to make important decisions regarding the child's life. This can include health, education and general welfare. Physical custody is which parent shares a physical presence with the child, or, in other words, where the child lives. If parents can reach an agreement they are free to divide both legal and physical custody however they like. That is with one exception, the best interests of the child.
Best Interests of the Child
In Florida child custody cases, the primary concern is the best interests of the child. This is a broad phrase that gives parents, judges and others involved in child custody matters, a broad discretion for splitting time, physical presence and resources. If parents can decide on physical and legal custody, it will only be upheld if it is in the best interests of the child. If the parents can't reach an agreement, the judge will use guidelines and other factors to make a decision on custody based on the child's best interests.
Other things a judge will consider in a custody case when it comes to a child's best interest include:
- Which parent can best meet the child's emotional and physical needs.
- Parental involvement in child's life, such as whether the parent has shown an interest in the child's friends, schools, after curricular or other activities.
- Which parent has the best moral character.
- Which parent is better able to meet the child's routines, such as homework, after school care, and social activities.
Finally, on a case by case basis, if the child is old enough and responsible enough, the judge will take the child's preference into consideration when it comes to deciding custody.
Can you Get Along?
Another important factor in deciding child custody is whether the parents are able to get along. This will affect the parent's ability to co-parent the child. The court recognizes that it is typically in the child's best interest to have both parents actively involved in their lives and will always default to a co-parenting arrangement unless the specific situation or facts suggest it would be detrimental. An ability to get along and make joint decisions in a responsible, non-hostile manner, will be key to any co-parenting arrangement.
Legal Representation for Child Custody Issues
As with any legal proceeding, you should feel free to consult an attorney if you have questions regarding your child custody case. The qualified attorneys at the Law Offices of Justin McMurray, P.A. for a free consultation.