What to Expect in a Child Custody Case?

In Florida, child custody cases and other issues involving minors are always decided based on the best interest of the child. Even though judges always examine each case differently, Florida law essentially places the interests of the child first. The law also sets the precedent that children will typically get the most benefit from having both parents engaged in making parental decisions following a divorce. In the beginning, neither parent starts with the more custody. The judge will consider several factors relevant to the child custody case. As a result, it’s important to have an experienced child custody attorney in Tallahassee representing the best interests of your child. The following information explains some of the main areas judges will consider when ruling on child custody cases.

The Child’s Safety and Health

If the courts find one parent to be detrimental to the health and safety of the child, the courts typically will not favor toward shared responsibility. In many cases, a parent can lose visitation or custody rights if evidence of any of the following are found:

  • Neglect
  • Abandonment
  • Child abuse
  • Domestic violence
  • Sexual violence

In some child custody cases, the judge could order supervised visitation. In addition, the judge may assess the safety of the child based on the physical and mental health of the parent or sufficient evidence of substance abuse inside of the home. If you are in a child custody battle and are concerned about the health and safety of your child, make sure you discuss your concerns with your Tallahassee family law attorney.

Developmental and Emotional Needs

Simply put, the Florida courts expect parents to place the child’s needs before their own individual needs. In the process, the court considers the ability and desire of each parent to be involved in the child’s life as well as meet their developmental needs. Common examples of considerations made by the court are:

  • The parent having a relationship with the child’s teachers and friends.
  • The parent understanding the child’s medical conditions and being familiar with their doctors.
  • Does the parent know the child’s favorite things and normal activities?
  • Has the parent participated at the child’s school?
  • Has the parent been present for the child’s extracurricular activities?

Another area of interest for the courts is whether the parent will be able to provide structured routines for the child, such as:

  • Schedules for the child to complete their homework
  • Consistent discipline
  • Schedules for bedtime and meals

The courts also consider the extent that each parent was involved in parenting the child before the divorce. It’s important to understand that Florida courts lean toward arrangements that minimize disruptions and maintain stability in the child’s life. If frequent travels between each parent’s home will be involved, the impact of this arrangement will become a factor, especially if the child is young. If the judge believes the child is mature and old enough to make independent choices, the court may allow them to have a custody preference. In any case, it’s important to thoroughly discuss these factors with your Tallahassee child custody lawyer.

Communication and Co-Parenting

In child custody cases, Florida’s courts place a significant amount of importance on the communication and co-parenting skills of each parent. During this process, the court will review  each parent’s willingness and ability to respect the other party’s time-sharing schedule and willingness to make adjustments without having to go through the courts. At the same time, the courts will take into consideration both parent’s ability to communicate with each other. In many instances, the court may scale back one parent’s parenting time or custody rights if they give false evidence of sexual violence, domestic abuse, abandonment, child abuse, or neglect against the other parent. As a result, most child custody attorneys will suggest keeping an open line of communication and always put the child’s interests first.

Moral Fitness

Moral fitness refers to the parents’ ethical and moral activities that may hinder the child’s growth. If your ex-spouse is involved in multiple causal relationships with different partners, substance abuse, illegal behavior, or is verbally abusive, it’s important to discuss these issues with your Tallahassee child custody attorney. In the end, the courts will review whether the parent’s moral behavior has or can have an adverse impact on the child.

Custody Options

In Florida’s courts, there are two different types of custody.

  • Legal custody refers to the parent’s rights and responsibilities for making decisions about the child’s welfare, education, and health.
  • Physical custody refers to the child’s actual presence with one parent.

Unless there is sufficient evidence against joint custody, the law typically leans toward this ruling. As long as the child’s best interest consistently considered, parents are typically free to split the responsibilities between themselves. However, the judge may grant any variation of joint or sole legal and physical custody of the child based on the child’s best interest.

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