Dealing With Custody In Florida
In Florida, child custody is known as timesharing and parental responsibility. This change from the older terminology has been done to better reflect the reality of the responsibility a parent has for the care and raising of their children. Lesley Turmelle Abbott, P.A., can help you understand how these laws will apply to your specific case. She takes the time to listen to you and your situation, explain the law, how it applies to your circumstance, and your rights, obligations and your options.
Best Interests Standard
Raising children is a complex process, and it becomes far more complex when the parents are not together. But Ms. Abbott can help you develop a parenting plan that will work for your children and for you in the years ahead. It can be useful to note that Florida, like most states, uses the “best interests of the child” as the standard for determining these questions. Of course, parents often disagree with regard to what is in their child’s best interest. This is where your attorney can be helpful.
There are two aspects to these plans. One is timesharing, or where the child will spend their days and nights. Second is parental responsibility or the legal rights and obligations each parent has to their child.
Timesharing is what most people are thinking of when they think of child custody. It encompasses the time a child spends with each parent. Timesharing is a very flexible concept, but it assumes that it is best if the child spends time with each parent on a regular basis. Ms. Abbott can help you work through the statutory factors that a judge will review to come up with a schedule that will work for your family. This schedule should encompass all of the relevant factors that apply to your child and should take into consideration a wide range of events in the child’s life, including:
- School schedule
- School breaks
- Summer camps
- Birthdays, both child and parent
- Any other times where the child and parent would want to be together
The schedule would also need to consider the parents’ work schedules and routines. If a parent works for an airline and travels frequently or is a medical professional who works rotating shifts, the timesharing schedule must be designed to work in a realistic way with those requirements. In most cases, practicality will control; you must live with this schedule, so you want it done correctly. Ms. Abbott can help you work through these schedules to develop a realistic and viable schedule.
Parental responsibility is a very complex subject. Sometimes called decision-making authority, this encompasses decisions made by parents about the child’s education, health care questions, religious upbringing and routine decisions that need to be made every day. Florida presumes parents will share responsibility equally, but there is a 15-factor statutory test that is employed if there is a dispute. The factors include a wide range of behavior and circumstance, some of which include:
- The parental relationship
- The ability of each parent to act on the needs of the child
- The stability of the child’s environment
- Where the parents will live with the child, including travel time
- The health of the parents
- Their ability to provide a consistent routine for the child
- The ability of the parents to communicate and their willingness to work together for the child
- Issues of domestic violence
- And finally, a catch-all of “any other relevant factor”
As you can see, this is very broad and allows a judge wide discretion to create a plan where the parents cannot agree. Ms. Abbott understands this challenge, and she works to help you develop a parenting plan that is truly in your child’s best interests, with the goal of obtaining the cooperation of the child’s other parent.
Remember, the test is the “best interests of the child,” so you must view these elements in that light. You may believe you are the “better” parent. Absent actions that threaten the child’s well-being or welfare, a judge is unlikely to award sole decision-making authority to only one parent. In case there is a threat or where cooperation with the child’s other parent is not possible, she works to build powerful arguments that will demonstrate your claims and protect you and your child’s interests.
When Children Need Additional Help
Unfortunately, there are times when the families sometimes have to step in for the best interest of their grandchild, niece, nephew, cousin, brother or sister. The Florida Statutes have a chapter specifically addressing these times to assist families in stepping in and protecting the children without the necessity of the Department of Children and Family Services (Child Protective Services). In these instances, the parents of the children maintain their parental rights.