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Understanding The Child Custody Process In Florida

Child custody battles can be incredibly stressful for parents and children alike. As a parent, you want the best for your children. Understanding how you can pursue your children’s best interests can help you approach the child custody process with confidence.

At Stuart N. House, P.A., you can find a Fort Lauderdale child custody attorney with a wealth of experience helping clients navigate the custody process. Attorney House will approach your case with care and compassion, so you can focus on what’s most important — caring for your children.

What To Know About Child Custody In Florida

Although the terms “custody” and “visitation” still are frequently used in everyday conversation, based upon recent changes in Florida family law, they no longer are favored when discussing child custody matters. Parenting issues in such cases are now negotiated or litigated primarily in terms of “parental responsibility” and “time-sharing” issues.

Under Florida law, absent evidence to the contrary, courts prefer that both parents will maintain responsibility in caring for their children. To that end, courts typically prefer joint custody arrangements. Courts use the term parental responsibility when referring to the decision-making of significant issues affecting the health, education, and welfare of children in Fort Lauderdale.

Though the law commonly understands parenting issues in terms of custody and visitation, Florida law has been substantially revised in this area in recent years. Courts no longer designate one parent as custodial parent and the other as noncustodial parent, but instead implement a parenting plan that sets forth in fairly detailed terms the parties’ rights concerning both decision-making and time-sharing regarding their children.

The Importance Of Evaluators In Child Custody Cases

Child custody evaluators can work with you to evaluate your competency as a parent. Evaluators then use this information to make custody recommendations to the court. The value of a child custody evaluator, particularly in high-conflict cases, can be a beneficial asset in your case. Although the opinions in a child custody evaluator’s report are not binding on the court, it can be persuasive. Evaluators ensure the court fully understands all the relevant facts in your case.

The evaluator will contact all the parties and third-party individuals such as teachers, friends, relatives, doctors, and other parties the child has come into contact with and issue a report to the court based on his or her findings. While judges don’t have to base their ruling solely on the contents of the evaluator’s report, many judges trust evaluators and use their findings as a foundation for a verdict. Parties typically divide costs pro-rata based upon their respective incomes, as reflected in their financial affidavits.

Can You Modify An Existing Order?

Initial determinations of child custody and visitation are based on current situations. There can be many life-altering changes after a divorce is finalized, and these changes may be significant enough for the custody order to merit a modification, as discussed here by our child custody lawyer in Fort Lauderdale.

Some common life changes necessitating modification include:

  • A change in work schedule
  • If the child relocates
  • If the child changes schools
  • If the child has special medical needs
  • Non-cooperation of the visitation schedule by either parent
  • If one parent’s living arrangement being unsafe, unhealthy or unfit for the child

If your financial, medical or employment situation changes, you can also petition to modify an existing child support order.

How Do Fort Lauderdale Judges Reach Their Decisions?

Courts always consider the best interests of the child or children first when petitioned to change visitation, but the court also takes the rights and desires of the parents into account. The parent seeking the modification must demonstrate that he or she has a substantial change in circumstances to receive permission to modify custody.

After the court finalizes the custody or visitation order, future issues may arise concerning the relocation of children. Whether you are seeking to move out of state with your child or want to prevent relocation, it is vital to have a clear understanding of your rights and responsibilities. A parent is not permitted to relocate without a court order or written consent of the other party.

Why A Court May Order Parenting Classes

While courts often order divorcing parents to attend courses to help them learn co-parenting skills, there are other situations in which classes may be required. If the court believes a child may be at risk when in the custody of one or both of its parents, the parent in question may be required to take classes. Examples include individuals charged with abuse or neglect and those perceived by the court to lack general parenting skills.

Courses that are intended to help parents who have been charged with child abuse or neglect typically focus on safe and age-appropriate ways of disciplining and healthy, effective anger management in addition to developing other day-to-day parenting skills. Classes that are required to be completed by both parents before the court issues a judgment are called mandatory parenting classes. Courses that must be completed by prospective adoptive and foster parents are also mandatory classes. These courses seek to address the issues that often arise when parents are caring for a non-biological child, including disability and a history of abuse or neglect.

Can A Law Firm Help You Relocate With Your Child?

A parent must file for relocation approval if he or she plans on moving a child more than 50 miles away. If you seek to move away with your children or to prevent the other parent from changing your children’s residence, Fort Lauderdale child custody attorney Stuart House stands ready to help. At Stuart N. House, P.A., you’ll find the knowledge and experience necessary to handle all types of custody cases, including post-judgment modifications, visitation, enforcement, child support and contempt.

Take The Next Step To Protect Your Family

Mr. House can work with you to develop a strategic plan based on the law that will yield the best results for your situation. Call today at 754-732-7482 or email him to start your free 30-minute consultation.