Most people with children thinking about divorce ask how does child custody work.
As an Orlando divorce lawyer, many of my clients fear that their child might be taken away in a divorce. Some are adamant that their spouse should not have any time with the children for a wide variety of reasons.
How do the Florida Courts handle child custody? What are your rights in a divorce when it comes to your children? Who gets the kids? Let's talk about a Florida Divorce and who gets the kids... Judges learn to handle Florida divorce cases by following the acronym P.E.A.C.E. Yes, you read that correctly! PEACE!! The "P" represents PARENTING. So what does that mean? It means that a Judge will most likely deal with the parenting issues in your case at the beginning. Two concepts fall under the general term PARENTING. "Legal Responsibility" is the first one, and "Physical Responsibility" is the second. Legal Responsibility deals with who is going to be responsible for the major decisions in your child's life. Who is going to make decisions regarding medical care and education? Physical Responsibility deals with where your son or daughter is going to live most of the time and rest their head at night to sleep. In Florida, Physical Responsibility is more commonly referred to as "Time Sharing." You might think of it as visitation.
How Does Child Custody Work - FLORIDA LAW
Our Florida Statutes, those laws that our elected legislators create, are a guide or road map for the Florida Courts. Our Florida Statutes dealing with parenting are clear. Here's what Florida law says...
"It is the public policy of this state that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing. There is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule when creating or modifying the parenting plan of the child."
The bottom line is that Judges start with the idea that your son or daughter should have ongoing, regular contact with you and your spouse.
Florida Law - Part 2
Florida law also says...
"The court shall order that the parental responsibility for a minor child be shared by both parents unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child."
That means a Court will likely award you and your spouse with decision making authority for those major decisions in your child's life. In other words, you and your spouse will share in the responsibility for making major decisions. Some of my clients are enraged that they will have to allow the other parent to continue to remain involved in the child's life. It comes down to this. Unless your spouse's participation in shared decision making will be detrimental or harmful to your child, he or she should continue to be involved with your child. When you and your spouse decided to have a child, you each made a decision to be forever linked or tied together as Mom and Dad. When the time comes for a divorce, that does not mean that the other parent becomes the world's worst parent imaginable. If you want to convince a Judge that your spouse should not be involved with your child, you need to have something better than below average parenting skills to present as your evidence. So at the end of the day, who gets the kids? Both of you is the likely answer. You and your spouse will continue to share your children as Mom and Dad.
Kids in a Divorce and THE NEXT STEP
Every family situation is different, and only you know the intricacies of your own family dynamic. If you want to know more about your rights when it comes to a Florida divorce and children, and your chances of getting what you want, make a wise investment in at least one consultation with a knowledgeable divorce attorney.