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Family Law in Florida: 6 Things You Need to Know About Child Custody

As of this year, about 13 percent of the population is divorced. If you’re going through a divorce right now, you may be worried about how your child custody arrangement will shake out. Will you have the time you need with your child, will you be able to afford child support payments, and will your child’s needs be considered?

The good news is that family law in Florida centers around the needs of the child above all else. Read on to learn more about Florida family law and what you can expect from that court system.

1. Florida Doesn’t Use the Term “Custody”

The first thing to know when dealing with Florida child custody law is that Florida doesn’t use the term “custody.” The state has started moving away from the term in recent years in an effort to change the focus of these hearings. Rather than presenting the child as a burden, the state wants to encourage a sense of shared parenting even with separated parents.

Instead, Florida family law is shifting to the term “shared parental responsibility” in place of “custody.” This focuses on how each parent will be in charge of meeting the child’s needs when they are with them. They have also worked to make sure that, except in extreme cases, both parents have access to the child or children after the divorce.

2. They Use a “Time-Sharing” Plan

The term “time-sharing” has come from a similar focus to the “parental responsibility” shift. Instead of using a visitation schedule, Florida courts are now setting up a time-sharing schedule. On this schedule, parents will share the time their child spends with each of them, rather than handing them back and forth like a piece of luggage.

The time-sharing plan details how much time each parent will spend with the child. This can include detailing where they will spend weekends, major holidays, and the like.

As this plan gets drawn up, the court considers the individual situation of each parent in the relationship. Parents can agree on this schedule together, or the courts can hear each parent’s argument and then assign a schedule.

3. Custody Cases Focus on the Child

The reason behind both of these shifts has to do with a renewed focus in Florida child custody cases. Florida courts want to focus on what is best for the child, rather than what is easiest for the parents. In Florida law, this is called “best interest of the child” standard. Each case is analyzed individually, and the needs of the child are kept at the forefront. This may or may not line up with the wants of the parents, or even the child.

Florida courts recognize that children too often get caught in the middle of parental squabbles. Rather than dividing the child up like another piece of marital property, courts are working to protect the children caught in these challenging situations. This focus comes into play with parental responsibility arrangements, time-sharing plans, and every other aspect of these cases.

4. Custody Plans Include Child Support

Even with parental responsibility often getting shared more evenly, Florida courts still recognize that one parent may take more financial responsibility for the child. Likewise, one parent may be more financially equipped to provide for the child’s needs than the other. So today’s custody plans often include provisions for child support.

A court will start child support decisions by considering the child’s needs. This may include factors like education, medical care, child care arrangements, and so on, as well as each parent’s financial situation. Based on what they find, the court will determine which parent, if any, will need to pay child support and how much those payments will be.

5. Both Parents Can Access Records

In some states, if one parent is awarded primary custody of their child, they also have exclusive rights to their records. The non-custodial parent may not be able to access dental, medical, or educational records. In Florida, however, both parents can access their child’s records, even if only one parent has sole custody.

There are certain exceptions where a parent is not allowed to access records about their child. If a judge approves a parenting plan or signs an order specifically denying one parent access to these records, they will not have a right to them. However, this is rare and mostly applies to cases where one parent is abusive, has substance abuse problems, or is otherwise a harmful presence in their child’s life.

6. Time Sharing Does Not Depend on Child Support

In many states, visitation rights depend on a parent being up-to-date on their child support payments. If you fall behind on your payments, your ex may have the right to refuse to give you access to your child. This is meant to encourage parents who want to be involved in their children’s lives to stay current on their payments.

In Florida, visitation time does not depend on the parent having made child support payments. Even if they fall months behind, the other spouse does not have a right to withhold visitation time. That being said, there are other serious consequences to falling behind on your child support.

Learn More About Family Law in Florida

Child and family law in Florida is always a challenging area, but Florida courts are working to make it healthier for the children involved. The term “custody” is being shifted to “parental responsibility,” and “visitation” is moving to “time-sharing.” Courts focus on the needs of the child above all else, and neither record access nor time sharing depends on custody and child support.

If you’d like to learn more about family law in Florida, check out the rest of our site at Boyer Law Firm. We strive to resolve your legal problems in a quick and efficient manner in an atmosphere where our services are easily accessible. Contact us for a case evaluation today and let us do the heavy lifting in your case.

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