The process of a child custody battle, regardless of how amicable, is frequently the most emotionally draining element of a family law case and a source of frustration for the divorce and family lawyer. You may regain assets that were once lost, but you will never be able to get back the time you may have lost with your children.
When there is instability in the family, there is an increased risk of problems for children. Loss of income, catastrophic illness, substance abuse, incarceration, or divorce can cause major disruptions in the quality of life for family members, especially the children. For these reasons, child welfare is always at the forefront of a child custody battle.
The Structure of Child Custody
The matter of child custody is complex regardless of the context. Whether the fight over custody is a result of separation, divorce, or allegations of child abuse, the best interest of the child must take center stage while additionally considering parental rights. But because the state of Florida may also have an explicit interest in the welfare of the minors involved, the number of participants in a custody dispute goes beyond the two parents.
Also, once children are old enough to express their own personal preferences, the court may appoint a guardian to represent the child or children so that they may freely express who they would like to have custody. The court acknowledges the dependence of children on adults, which is why the court may act swiftly to enforce protective measures which will have an impact on the parents’ right to due process.
Because there are state institutions with a legal responsibility to get involved, hiring the services of a skilled
Chapter 39 of Florida statutes addresses proceedings relating to children. If a child has been abused, neglected, or injured while in the care of a parent, that parent may have their visitation or custody revoked. In situations where one parent refuses or is unable to take custody or abandons their child, the other parent is allowed sole custody. However, chapter 39 proceedings are handled primarily in dependency court. This firm does not handle dependency court cases but will be happy to refer you to an experienced attorney who does. For purposes of family law and family court, divorce and family lawyers focus on child custody as found in §61.13, Florida Statutes.
Child Custody or Time-Sharing
Divorce and family lawyers focus on time-sharing and crafting an agreement that is in the child’s best interest with the goal of avoiding a protracted hearing in front of the judge. Neither parent will be awarded sole custody unless it is in the child’s best interest. It is the public policy of the state of Florida “that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing. There is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule when creating or modifying the parenting plan of the child.”
So unless the other parent’s conduct falls under the definition of abuse, abandonment, or neglect in chapter 39, Florida Statutes, both parents are more than likely going to get time-sharing. It is always in the parents best interest to negotiate a time-sharing schedule that puts the children first and works for the family. Parental responsibility is going to be shared unless the court finds that it would be detrimental to the child. Detriment to the child is a very difficult standard to prove and will likely fail unless the evidence is strong and compelling. The correct mindset when facing a divorce or paternity action is to acknowledge and accept that the other parent is going to get time-sharing and that sharing is the end game.
If your ex and you are not able to reach an agreement on time-sharing, you may need to attend a custody hearing where you will sit before a judge. If you are unable to reach a decision on your own, you are putting the responsibility of making custody arrangements in the hands of that judge.
Even though the judge will act in accordance with what they feel is in the best interest of the child or children, you may still want to strongly consider resolving the matter outside of court.
The court is legally permitted to consider a myriad of relevant factors as it makes its decision. Factors that relate to your child’s safety and health will take precedence.
Some of the factors will focus on parents and ask questions like:
- Which parent is more likely to take care of the day-to-day emotional, physical, educational, and developmental needs of the child?
- Who is better suited to provide a stable, loving, nurturing, and consistent relationship with the child?
- Which parent is more likely to allow and encourage frequent and regular contact between the other parent and the child?
- Does either parent have a history of drug or alcohol abuse?
- Does either parent have a criminal record, or a history of physical abuse?
There are other elements that are considered that are more child-focused such as:
- If the child is old enough, with whom would he or she prefer to stay?
- Are there siblings to be considered in the situation?
- Regarding the child’s education, sense of community and family life, what scenario will provide the greatest stability?
The specific list of factors is found in §61.13, Florida Statutes. However, for the sake of practicality it is important to remember that the judges will always start with the premise that shared parental responsibility and equal time-sharing will be the starting point for every case and it is extremely difficult and unlikely that one parent will have 100% sole custody/time-sharing. Children need both parents.
Consult with a Knowledgeable Divorce and Family Lawyer in Miami
If you are a parent going through the rigors of a child custody process in Florida, contact divorce and family lawyer Antonio Jimenez to help you work towards a favorable judgment. He has the experience to make the system work for you, not against you.
Antonio appreciates the fact that it’s in the best interest of the child for all parties involved to come to a friendly agreement in terms of visitation or custody. He will help guide you through this unpleasant process in a manner that benefits everyone.