Filing for a divorce in Florida is typically never a straight path. This is especially true when children under the age of 18 are involved. Custody in divorce hearings can be messy and emotional for all parties involved.
The biggest decision is whether parents get sole custody or shared custody of their children. It would be easy if both parents could decide amicably outside of court who gets custody and how much custody is given. However, this is not always the case, even when both spouses agree that divorce is the only solution to improve their lives.
Though the marriage may be over, deciding who gets custody of the children and whether it’s sole or shared custody is often a contested topic among divorcees.
Types of Child Custody: Sole Custody vs. Shared Custody
When filing for divorce, both spouses must decide who gets custody of the children and to what degree. If the spouses cannot decide, a court will decide for them based on the evidence presented at the hearing. There are generally two types of custody that can be decided sole custody and shared custody.
Sole Custody vs. Shared Custody
Sole custody is when one parent is given full legal and physical custody of the child. This allows the parent to decide everything for the child without consulting their ex-spouse. The parent also has full physical rights, meaning the child lives with them full-time and doesn’t need to live or visit the other parent.
Shared custody is when both parents share some form of legal and/or physical custody of the child or children in question. In this case, both parents must agree and approve all decisions affecting the child and share physical custody.
Though there are only two types of custody, they can be broken down in 4 ways:
- Sole physical custody
- Joint physical custody
- Sole legal custody
- Joint legal custody
How Is Sole and Shared Custody Decided in Florida Divorce Cases?
Deciding how much physical or legal custody one parent gets over the other can be tricky. Suppose both parents cannot agree amicably on custody. In that case, a divorce lawyer may need to get involved and assist the couple in reaching an agreement outside or inside a courtroom hearing.
Sometimes parents must prove in front of a judge or mediator why they deserve more or full custody rights over their children. Typically, women are favoured in custody disputes due to what’s known as the “tender years” doctrine.
Gender alone cannot and should not be the basis for deciding custody. Thus, most Florida courts will instead act on what’s known as the “best interest of the child” doctrine. In this case, each parent has equal custody rights regardless of gender. An experienced lawyer can fight to uphold the latter doctrine of what is best for the children in the custody dispute.
When deciding custody, a judge will examine the following and more to determine what will be best for the child. The judge will use the evidence presented to them to decide how much legal and physical custody both parents will get.
These are a few questions the judge will consider before making their decision:
- Will the child have a safe place to live?
- Will there be supervision in and outside the home?
- Will the child have all the basic necessities they need?
- Will the child receive adequate emotional support?
- Who has been taking care of the child historically, and has it been good?
- Is there any sign of abuse from either parent or the people around either parent?
- Does either parent use drugs or alcohol or involve themselves with people who do?W
- Will the child encounter domestic violence?
If either parent can provide evidence that the other parent will not put the child’s best interest first, then the court will heavily take that into consideration.
How does the Court Determine Child Support in Florida?
When it comes to child support in Florida, a court will decide if the parents cannot reach a mutual agreement together. The biggest factor when deciding on child support is how much each parent earns. In Florida, the courts use an “income shares model” to estimate how much the parents would have spent on the child together if they remained married. Then, they divide the amount between the parents based on their income.
Florida courts must also refer to the Florida Child Support Guidelines, which are found under Florida’s 2012 statute 61.30. This statute helps guide the courts in determining how much a parent must pay for child support based on their income.
Typically, a court will avoid making parents pay more than their gross income. They do this by defining income through set guidelines.
The Consequences of the Court Deciding Custody of Children
Unfortunately, though some statutes help the courts decide how to assign child custody and support in divorce cases, negative consequences can arise after a custody dispute. For instance, if one parent can mount a compelling case for full custody that sways the courts in their favour, one parent can lose all parental rights quickly and swiftly.
Fighting for your rights as a parent can be tough. Consulting an experienced Orlando child custody lawyer in Florida can allow you to build a better case in a child custody hearing. No parent wants to put their child through a long-drawn-out custody battle. Professional legal counsel can help shorten the process and produce better results.