Parkland Child Custody Lawyer
Learn Your Rights as a Parent
Family law covers some of the most sensitive subject matters within the civil court system. This is especially true of cases that involve children. Whether a couple is divorcing has never been married, if there are shared minor children who desire to live separately, the two parties must generally work out an agreement for the child(ren)'s welfare and provision.
At Stuart N. House, P.A., we have over two decades of experience helping parents fight for their rights in the courtroom. To reach our firm and arrange a free consultation, contact us online or via phone at (954) 388-8443.
How Does Florida Law Affect Child Custody Battles?
Because each state determines child custody laws, parents should note that the laws of the respective state govern the family court judge who presides over their case. Related laws typically govern how custody decisions are reached, the details and parameters of joint custody, and whether a parent may receive visitation rights. In Florida, these laws comply with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.
If a child's parents are unable to reach an agreement on how to divide responsibilities for custody and child welfare, the parties may be required to attend a hearing before a judge. The judge determines what arrangement is in the best interest of the child. Family court judges in Florida are permitted to consider relevant factors in deciding what is in the child's best interest. Factors judges consider include:
- The parent who is more likely to care for the child's daily physical, emotional, developmental, and special needs.
- Evaluating which parent is more likely to maintain a consistently loving, stable, and nurturing relationship with the child, and
- examining which parent is more likely to encourage frequent contact between the child and the noncustodial parent.
If the child is old enough, the court is permitted to consider the child's preference, relationship with siblings, and continuity of the child's education, community, and family life. The Court may also consider a parental history of drug or alcohol abuse, physical abuse, and certain criminal charges and convictions.
Sole vs. Joint Custody
Florida recognizes two types of custody arrangements: sole and joint. When one parent has sole custody, he or she is granted physical and legal custody. When parents have joint custody, also called shared parental responsibility, both parents must agree to decisions made regarding the child. Furthermore, one parent is named a primary custodian, and the other is granted visitation. Naming a primary custodian enables the child to have a primary residence, assigned school district, and primary care physician.
While it is rare for Florida courts to grant one parent sole custody, these situations do sometimes arise. A court will typically award this after determining that shared custody would be harmful and not in the child's best interest. For example, a court may decide to revoke custody rights for a parent with a history of child or substance abuse. Therefore, a parent who seeks sole custody must establish that allowing the other parent any parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child or children involved.
Mediation as an Alternative
Parents who are unable to decide how to divide childcare and welfare responsibilities may prefer mediation. The mediation process is less contentious and allows both parties to avoid a lengthy, frequently more expensive, adversarial court battle. In Florida, all cases involving custody or visitation are referred to mandatory mediation if both parties have representation, and there are no allegations of domestic violence.
Mediators are court-appointed neutral third parties trained in dispute resolution. They work to help parents resolve the issues that prevent them from reaching an agreement. There is usually less tension involved in the mediation process as all statements made during sessions are confidential; therefore, they may not be repeated by anyone outside of the other party and the attorneys for both sides. Parents also typically prefer the mediation process because it allows them to retain more control over the outcome of parental responsibility issues.
In most cases, mediation concludes more quickly than the court process. However, a judge decides issues not resolved in mediation. Mediation costs are variable as cases involving parties with a combined income of less than $100,000 may qualify for a reduced cost court-appointed mediator. Cases in which the parties' combined income exceeds the upper limit may hire a private mediator at costs that typically are more comparable to hiring counsel. A child custody lawyer can help parties find an experienced Florida Supreme Court-certified mediator.
Choosing a Qualified Attorney
While the expense of hiring a lawyer may be a deterrent for some people, the high stakes of a child custody case easily justify the cost. Investing in competent legal counsel can help parents better understand their options before proceeding to family court and protecting their rights.
Family law is often complex; therefore, the average person quickly realizes the tremendous advantage of having the guidance and support of a skilled attorney. Seasoned child custody lawyers can bring calm and professionalism to a case that is otherwise likely to be emotionally charged and highly sensitive from clarifying the law to weighing legal options and presenting the client's case before the court.
Like most parents, Florida's family court judges generally want what is best for the children involved. While judges are required to adhere to state law, they may also exercise a substantial discretionary power. Therefore, parents must consult with their family law attorney to effectively weighing in on a decision that is likely to have a far-reaching impact on the future of their children.
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