Child Custody Attorney in Tampa Florida
Child custody refers to the care, control, and maintenance of a minor. Child custody laws in Florida help determine which parent gets legal and physical custody. A parent with legal custody of a child can make educational, religious, medical, and disciplinary decisions. Through these laws, the courts will also decide who gets physical custody. The courts determine who gets physical custody to establish where a child will live.
There are two types of custody arrangements in the state of Florida. Child custody can be awarded to one parent (known as sole custody) or to both parents (known as joint custody).
With sole custody, one parent gets legal and physical custody of a child. In a joint custody situation, both parents share legal and physical child custody. In Florida, joint custody is called shared parental responsibility, and both parents must approve all decisions related to the child. In this situation, one parent is named the primary joint custodian and the other parent is granted visitation so the child has a primary residence, school, and a designated primary physician.
When the marriage involves children, Florida law requires that the Court enter an Order called a “Parenting Plan.” While the Parenting Plan must determine all of these issues involving the children, one of the most important matters that must be decided is now called “timesharing” (what used to be called custody and visitation). Timesharing determines when the children are to be with each parent. Furthermore, the amount of timesharing that a parent is awarded can affect the child support that the parent is ordered to receive or pay.
So many questions need to be answered in any case involving children:
- What is the timesharing schedule going to be?
- Should timesharing be supervised or in some other way limited?
- Who will be responsible for making the major life decisions for the children that need to be made?
- How will holidays be handled?
- What about summers?
- What is the best way for the children to be exchanged between the parents?
- Can each parent leave the State of Florida when they have the children?
- What has to happen if one parent wants to relocate with the children?
- How should the children communicate with one parent while they are with the other parent?
Types of Child Custody
In most states, there are four types of child custody including legal custody, physical custody, sole custody and joint custody.
Legal custody typically deals with a parent’s right to make decisions about a child’s upbringing. Legal custody is most commonly shared among both parents through joint legal custody. However, in certain circumstances one parent may have sole legal custody meaning only he or she may make decisions about the child’s upbringing.
Physical custody typically deals with where a child lives and spends time. Physical custody may be divided between both parents through shared physical custody. Conversely, a child may exclusively live with one parent who has sole physical custody.
Child Custody vs. Florida Time Sharing
It is important to note, Florida family law courts have moved away from use of the term “child custody” in favor of “time sharing.” Florida family law courts use time sharing so there does not have to be a primary and secondary custodial parent.
With time sharing, a parenting plan is usually created with specific visitation rights for each parent. These plans are always determined based upon the best interest of the children.
Factors Affecting Child Custody
There may be a number of factors which can affect how family courts choose to designate legal custody and physical custody. Some factors which may negatively affect a parent’s opportunity for child custody can include:
- Abandonment or desertion
- Drug, alcohol and/or other substance abuse
- Felony conviction or incarceration
- Mental instability
- Physical abuse, mental abuse and/or cruelty
Professional Help With Child Custody
It is often beneficial to enlist the help of an experienced family law attorney when dealing with a child custody issue. A parent may seek the help of a family lawyer for help with:
- Uniformity in parental decisions
- A formerly uninvolved parent now wants to be involved in parenting
- One parent is getting remarried or moving