Child Custody Lawyers in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Child custody can be one of the most contentious parts of divorce among couples with children. Unfortunately, many of the arguments associated with a divorcing couple can escalate to epic proportions when child custody is the issue. According to Legal Jobs, about 90 percent of all child custody cases are settled outside of court.
This doesn’t mean that these cases are settled amicably between the parents, only that the attorneys for both parties were able to negotiate a custody agreement both parents determined they could live with. As of May 2020, there were 12.9 million custodial parents across the United States; 79.9 percent of those custodial parents were mothers.
Of course, when it’s you, your children, and your future involved, it can be more difficult to take a step back and be objective. This is why having experienced child custody lawyers from Lauriston Law Firm by your side can make a huge difference in the outcome of your custody issue.
We are not your typical lawyers in that we make transparency a mission at our firm. We truly believe that you are entitled to honesty, trust, and strong advocacy and we work daily to ensure every single client receives just that. When you need a child custody lawyer, you need Lauriston Law Firm.
Legal Definition and Florida Law Regarding Child Custody
Statutes regarding child custody in the state of Florida are found in the 2021 Florida statutes, Chapter 61 (61.13). While most of us still think in terms of the word “custody,” when considering child sharing arrangements, under Florida statutes, it is called “time-sharing.” The Court orders a time-sharing schedule that is in the best interests of the child—which is always the overarching theme in any issue having to do with children. Your highly experienced child custody lawyers from Lauriston Law Firm take the best interests of your child seriously and will work to ensure the decisions made on behalf of your child are always in his or her best interests.
What are the Different Types of Child Custody in the State of Florida?
The Sunshine State requires parents to either resolve any disputes regarding child custody on their own, use the services of a mediator to determine time-sharing for the child or have a judge determine time-sharing and a parenting plan. As noted, the best interests of the child are always the determining factor in custody decisions. Florida laws also recognize that, barring any extenuating circumstances, children virtually always benefit from frequent time spent with each parent. Both parents have equal rights to custody of their children and will be expected to determine a fair division of parenting time and visitation, along with parental responsibilities.
Parental responsibility refers to each parent’s right to make the major decisions for their children, such as those pertaining to education, religion, or medical decisions. Shared parental responsibility is the goal unless this would not be in the child’s best interests. One parent is generally designated as the primary or custodial parent while the other receives the designation of a non-custodial or secondary parent. Regarding custody or time-sharing, it will be determined how much time each parent will have with the child via a time-sharing or parenting plan.
While the ideal is certainly equal time, a true 50/50 split is rarely a realistic goal. If the parents are unable to determine a time-sharing plan on their own, the judge will make the determination. The judge may potentially award one parent more time than the other and if there is any evidence of child abuse, abandonment, neglect, or domestic violence, a parent could potentially lose his or her time-sharing rights. Usually, a time-sharing split will have the child living primarily with one parent, with visitation for the other parent.
What Factors are Taken into Account During Child Custody Proceedings?
When a judge must make the decision regarding time-sharing, he or she will take the following factors into consideration:
- The ability of each parent to fully meet the needs of the child
- The moral fitness of each parent
- Whether each parent is willing to foster a loving relationship between the child and the other parent
- The physical and mental health of each parent
- The ability of each parent to provide the child with a consistent routine
- How the child has adjusted to home and community
- If the child is of sufficient age and understanding, the reasonable preferences of the child
- Whether there is any evidence of domestic violence
- The geographic viability of the parenting plan—i.e., the amount of travel it would take to honor the time-sharing schedule
- Whether each parent has the ability to provide a safe, stable environment for the child
- Each child’s specific developmental age, needs, and abilities
- Any other relevant factors as determined by the judge
The “moral fitness” component refers to circumstances that could affect a child’s moral and physical development. This includes frequent casual relationships with multiple partners, substance abuse, illegal behaviors, violence, or verbal abuse.
How is Parenting Time and Shared Custody Handled in Florida?
Florida parents must submit a proposed parenting plan to the court. This plan must clearly outline both parental responsibilities, as well as time-sharing agreements. If the parents have reached a custody agreement on their own, then this plan must be sent for approval by the Court. At a minimum, parenting plans must include a specific, time-sharing schedule with all necessary addresses and phone numbers related to the child’s routines. Parenting plans will also detail how parents will communicate changes in the plan with one another, as well as which parent will be primarily responsible for dealing with school-related matters and healthcare issues.
What About Post Judgment Modifications?
Both parents are legally obligated to abide by the terms of the time-sharing agreement until the youngest child reaches the age of 18, or the order is changed. Since lives can change dramatically over the years, when there has been what is known as a “material change in circumstances,” it could be time to make changes to the original order. The parent who files a request for a modification in custody arrangements must be able to prove the change benefits the child. An example of a material change in circumstances might include a move to another state on the part of either parent.
How the Child Custody Lawyers at Lauriston Law Firm Can Help
The child custody lawyers of Lauriston Law Firm will work hard to ensure a fair timeshare agreement between parents. We are incredibly focused on meeting our client’s needs, which extends to your child or children. We want what is best for your child and for you and will work tirelessly to achieve that goal. Think Lauriston Law Firm when you are contemplating child custody and divorce. We have the experience, the skills, and the knowledge necessary for the very best outcome possible. Contact Lauriston Law Firm today.