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Florida Child Custody Basics


When a married couple who shares children decide to divorce, coming up with a parenting plan will be one of their top priorities. These plans will dictate who cares for the children on which days and how the parents will share decision making responsibility. Coming up with these plans is not, however, always easy, as the parties need to follow specific guidelines and create a plan that is in their child’s best interests.

Terms You Should Know

All states have their own approach to and terminology when it comes to child custody. In Florida, for instance, physical custody, or how much time a child spends with each parent, is referred to as time-sharing. Time-sharing schedules outline when a child will be with each parent and how and when handoffs will occur. Schedules can either be simple or relatively complicated, depending on the needs of the child and the parents. Another important term to know is parental responsibility, which was formerly known as legal custody and involves dividing up responsibility for childcare-related decisions. A parenting plan will dictate how parents go about making decisions regarding a child’s religion, education, and healthcare.

Parenting Plans

Parenting plans are legal documents that outline both a time-sharing schedule and parental responsibility arrangement for a particular family. While parents are encouraged to come up with their own parenting plans, even individuals who do negotiate an arrangement will need to seek approval from a judge. Once approved, the agreement will become legally binding, but can be modified as needed.

The Best Interests of the Child Standard

The best interests of the child standard is a guideline that judges use when deciding to approve or deny a parenting plan, or when coming up with their own plan on a family’s behalf. Ultimately, a plan will only be approved if it is deemed to be in a child’s best interests, which in turn requires an assessment of a number of factors, including:

  • The child’s age and developmental needs;
  • The child’s relationship with each parent;
  • Both parents’ work schedules;
  • The child’s home, school, and community record;
  • Each parent’s ability to provide for his or her child’s needs;
  • Whether the child has any special needs;
  • The distance between the parents’ homes; and
  • The child’s opinion (if he or she is deemed mature enough to make a reasonable decision).

These are only some of the factors that judges consider when making decisions about parental responsibility and time-sharing. How each factor is reflected in a plan will depend on a family’s unique circumstances.

Call Today for a Free Case Review

Navigating family law matters, like custody-related issues, can be emotionally grueling and legally complex. Dedicated Fort Lauderdale child custody lawyer Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. has the experience and skill to help. Do you have a question about child custody laws in Florida? Don’t hesitate to call our legal team at 954-945-7591 for assistance, or set up a meeting by filling out one of our online contact forms.




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