Child Custody Attorney in Stuart, Florida
Let our Treasure Coast family lawyers fight on your behalf
When negotiating a time-sharing arrangement, you can’t afford to waste your time or money on an inexperienced attorney. The sooner you can come to an agreement with your spouse, the sooner you can move on with your life and put the divorce proceedings behind you. A Stuart child custody lawyer from our firm will fight hard to come to an agreement that not only serves our clients but is also in the best interests of the children.
Child custody and visitation laws
In Florida, parents who seek a divorce – as well as separating parents who never married – are required to enter into a parenting plan in which the details of custody and visitation are clearly outlined in writing. The plan typically covers each parent’s responsibility for certain daily parenting tasks, health care and school-related decisions. It also designates the child’s primary address for school registration and lays out the times and dates that the children will spend with each parent. This document must be approved by the court but can be modified at a later date with the assistance of a skilled child custody attorney in Stuart.
Factors considered in custody cases
Neither parent automatically has a greater right to custody in the state of Florida. The courts make custody determinations based on a number of factors, including:
- moral fitness of parents: Judges consider how the parents’ behavior might affect the moral and ethical development of the child. For example, a lifestyle that involves drug abuse, illegal activities or verbal abuse is not in the best interests of the child, and judges can place strict limitations on visitation when parents engage in such behaviors.
- co-parenting skills: The way the parents interact and communicate with one another is an important consideration in custody disputes. The court will look at how each parent honors the time-sharing schedule, keeps the other parent apprised of what is going on in the child’s life and avoids making disparaging remarks about the other parent. Any behaviors that negatively affect the child’s emotional and physical well-being can reduce custody or visitation for that parent.
- needs of the children: Both parents are expected to place the child’s health, safety and emotional needs above all else. In custody disputes, the court will examine the extent to which each parent has demonstrated the willingness and ability to meet these needs. A failure to provide nurturing care, stable routines and minimal disruptions in the child’s life can count against a parent when custody and visitation are determined.
Custody options in Florida
In the state of Florida, joint legal custody generally is awarded unless the judge deems that this arrangement could prove detrimental to the children. With joint custody, the child may spend equal amounts of time with each parent or live primarily with one and have visitation with the other.
Consult with a family lawyer you can trust
Parenting plans are designed to cover all of a child’s needs and can become quite complicated. You need experienced divorce attorney in Stuart who will put in the necessary time and meticulous care to uphold your rights and meet your children’s needs. For a caring Palm City child custody attorney, contact Leanne L. Ohle, and take advantage of our free initial consultation.
Child Custody FAQs
What is the difference between sole custody and joint custody?
When a family court assigns child custody to only one parent, this is known as sole custody. That parent alone possesses legal and physical custody of the child. This means that the sole custodial parent has the right to make all decisions regarding the child’s education, health care, religion and discipline. The child will also physically reside with the sole custodial parent. Joint custody awards legal and physical custody to both parents, who will make joint decisions regarding the child and share in childcare duties as a child splits time between two parental households.
Can a child decide which parent to live with?
A judge’s custody decision may reflect the expressed preferences of a child. What the child asks for, however, may not serve as the only factor in a judge’s decision. When considering a child’s preference, a judge will evaluate a child’s age, maturity level, comprehension of the situation and whether the child knows each parent well enough to make such an important decision. Florida law does not specify at what age a child’s opinion can influence a custody decision. Judges use their own discretion when pondering a child’s request.
When can I modify a child custody arrangement?
Child custody, also known as time sharing in Florida, is established via a court order. Parents should not deviate from its terms without seeking an official modification by a court. The law does not impose any timing requirements for petitioning a court for custody modification. The reason for the petition matters more than the timing of it. A petitioner must show that a material change in circumstances for the family would justify altering a time sharing schedule. The court will only approve the modification if its terms still support the best interests of the child.
How are the best interests of the children determined?
State law spells out many factors that judges weigh when determining what arrangement would be in the best interests of the child. Primary issues relevant to this decision are parental ability to meet a child’s emotional, physical and developmental needs. The age of a child might influence how either parent is able to meet those requirements. The moral fitness of parents and their ability to maintain a consistent family routine within safe homes matter as well. Any evidence of domestic violence or child abuse and neglect naturally figures into a custody decision.
How is a parent’s moral fitness decided?
The best interests of a child could be undermined by living with a morally unfit parent. A court might deem a parent morally unfit due to substance abuse, casual sexual relationships with multiple partners, violence, emotional abuse or engaging in illegal activities. These alleged actions may be viewed in relationship to how they affect a child and perhaps jeopardize a child’s moral and ethical development. For example, a parent who committed adultery might only have that behavior affect a custody decision if the child was openly exposed to the activity.
What can I do to get more custodial time with my children?
An involved parent who makes the needs of a child the top priority will have a better chance of winning the desired amount of custody time. Involvement is demonstrated by attending to duties related to taking a child to school, helping with homework and providing medical care and transportation to extracurricular activities. Your home will need a proper sleeping area for a child as well as age-appropriate equipment like toys, games and furniture. Evidence that you have a loving relationship with a child, such as photos of you doing things together and celebrating birthdays and holidays, could go a long way to proving that you play a pivotal role in your child’s life.
When does a judge order supervised time sharing?
A judge may restrict a parent’s access to a child under certain conditions, such as a parent with mental health problems, especially if they are untreated. Drug or alcohol addiction, a history of domestic violence, child neglect or sexual misconduct may also prompt a judge to order supervision when a parent interacts with children. A request to impose supervised time sharing can come from the other parent, a social worker or a court. Supervised time sharing could only be temporary. A successfully reformed parent may pursue more time sharing in the future.
Does Florida law favor mothers over fathers?
The court system no longer follows the “tender years” doctrine that used to call for mothers to have custody of young children to the exclusion of their fathers. Current statutes do not state a preference related to parental gender. However, many people may still presume that fathers will have limited access to children. To guard against this traditional belief, the representation of a child custody lawyer can help a parent assert rights to maintain a relationship with children.
What if the other parent tries to move my child out of state?
Your response to this distressing situation depends on many issues. Are you still legally married? If so, then you both have equal rights to the children in the absence of a court-issued custody order. You may petition a court for a temporary custody order until the matter is settled. For men outside of marriage, paternity matters quite a bit. Without officially established paternity, a man will have to seek a paternity action to prove his right to access his child and move forward with a legal case. For parents already operating under an existing custody order, it must be followed until modified by a court. A parent will have to petition a court to enforce a custody order.
Can grandparents get child custody in Florida?
Although the biological relationship between grandparents and grandchildren is strong and precious, it does not automatically entitle grandparents to custody. However, the law recognizes that grandparents can be appropriate custodians. Primary reasons that can enable them to petition for custody are parents who are missing, dead or lapsed into a persistently vegetative state. If only one parent meets this criteria but the other one has a conviction for a violent offense or felony that poses a threat to the child, then grandparents may seek custody as well. Military personnel on deployment may also grant temporary custody or time sharing to a grandparent under certain conditions.