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Child Custody

Child Custody


For many years, it was common for one parent in a divorce to be awarded primary custody, while the other parent was granted visitation. In October 2008, there were significant changes in Florida law which led to a new child custody statute.  As part of the new law, the state largely did away with such terms as “custody,” “primary parent,” and “visitation.” The parents are now simply referred to as the Mother and the Father of the child. Courts now presume that both parents will share parental responsibilities and that each has an equal interest in raising their children, absent a finding that shared parenting would be detrimental to the child. 

Divorcing parents are required to develop a parenting plan that describes how parents will share responsibility for their children’s upbringing and specifies the time that each parent will have with the children. The plan should include the following information:

  • Where the children will live
  • How parents will share child-rearing responsibilities
  • Time-sharing arrangements including division of holidays and school breaks
  • Which  parent will make decisions regarding the child’s health care, schooling and extracurricular activities
  • How the parents will communicate with each other and the child
  • Who will be responsible for transporting the child and how the costs of same will be paid
  • Which parent’s address will be used for school zone purposes

If the parties can agree on a parenting plan, then the court will review it to insure that it is in the best interests of the child.  Should the parents be unable to agree on the terms of a parenting plan, then a trial is conducted by the court to establish such a plan for the parties.  All of the new flowery language and euphemisms aside, a trial over a parenting plan is still a good old-fashioned custody fight with all the attendant vitriol and acrimony. Witnesses such as relatives, family friends, neighbors, teachers, childcare workers and, if necessary, psychotherapists are called to testify at trial by one or both of the parents. Evidence such as the medical records, report cards, photographs of the home and criminal records are introduced to persuade the court that the child should live with one or the other parent a majority of the time. 

Parenting plans are a new way of addressing child custody issues, and it is important to seek the advice of a family law attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced in these cases and the changing statutory law. The attorneys at Rice will answer your time-sharing questions and will work diligently to help you formulate a parenting plan that addresses all pertinent custody issues.  Although settlement and compromise is by all means the best way to resolve children’s issues, our attorneys are experienced at custody litigation and trial should it be necessary to protect your children.

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