The Basics of Child Custody: How Does a Court Decide Who Gets the Children?

October 8, 2021

Divorce and separation are stressful on parents—but when you have minor children, it’s even worse for them. Parents may not agree on who should get custody, whether the other parent should pay support and how often they can visit with the kids. Hiring a child custody lawyer isn’t required, but it’s the smartest thing you can do when you want to preserve your time with your children.

Here’s how Florida courts determine custody rights.

Establishing a parenting plan

A “parenting plan” is how Florida refers to child custody decisions. In your parenting plan, the two of you (or the court) will determine how physical and legal custody are shared. Physical custody is whom the child lives with and when: parents might share 50/50 custody, every other weekend, two weeks on and two weeks off or another suitable arrangement. Legal custody is who gets decision-making power over the children: where they go to school, their religious education, medical decisions and more.

Custody doesn’t necessarily have to be shared. If both parents agree (such as when a parent gives up their right to see their children), or one parent has a questionable history that could be dangerous to the child, the court may award custody to one parent only.

What happens when you agree on a parenting plan?

If you and your ex-partner can decide on a parenting plan, that will save you plenty of time and expense. Parents are entitled to come up with a parenting plan together. With the help of your child custody lawyers, the two of you can decide on a reasonable schedule and how to share decision-making authority.

In this case, a judge will only interfere if the parenting plan violates Florida law. Typically, the courts want to see both parents have frequent, continuing contact with their children. However, sometimes it’s impractical for both parents to share certain authorities (like health care) due to outside circumstances. Don’t feel obligated to split everything right down the middle, especially if you live far away from each other.

What happens when you can’t agree on a parenting plan?

If you can’t agree on a parenting plan, a judge will make the decision for you. Courts look at what’s in the best interest of the child: the parents’ ability to take care of the child, their moral and legal background, whether the parents demonstrate a willingness to work together in the child’s best interests and the child’s home, school, community and extracurricular status.

Courts will also take the child’s preference into account, but your child custody lawyer will need to obtain approval for the minor child to appear in court first.

As you can see, it’s always preferable to agree on a parenting plan. If you can’t, your child custody lawyer will help you petition the court for a reasonable parenting plan.

Call the Law Offices of Granoff & Kessler for help with your custody case. We’d be glad to arrange a consultation to learn more about your situation and show you how we can help.

Categorized in:

Law Offices of Granoff & Kessler