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At Schlegel Law Group, we work with parents in Miami to negotiate favorable and healthy custody arrangements following divorce. Particularly if you seek to avoid lengthy and expensive trial, you can pursue collaborative divorce with our guidance that can allow you more autonomy in your negotiation. We will represent you in the negotiations room with the other parent and voice your interests and goals for you and your child. Further, because we are a boutique law firm, we are able to provide you more personalized and individualized legal guidance that we will tailor to your particular situation. With over 20 years of experience working with parents in Florida, we are ready to champion your parental rights in the negotiations room and protect your relationship with your child.
Types of Custody Options
In Florida, custody involves time sharing and parental responsibility. Time sharing refers to when a parent will spend time with the child, and parental responsibility refers to each parent’s right to make major medical, educational, religious, and legal decisions for the child. Time sharing options may be joint (shared with the other parent) or sole (most time spent with one parent). Parental responsibility may also be joint or sole, though Florida custody laws usually favor shared parental responsibility unless it would be detrimental to the child's well-being.
Even if parents share parenting time and responsibilities, the parent with more parenting time will be deemed the "primary parent" or "custodial parent" and the other the "secondary parent" or "noncustodial parent." Note that the custodial parent will have the final say on matters involving the child if the parents cannot agree.
Child’s Best Interests
The primary factor for determining the custody arrangement in a Florida divorce is the child's best interests, which include considerations like:
- each parent's willingness to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent;
- each parent's ability to meet the child's needs;
- each parent's physical and mental health;
- each parent's moral fitness (e.g., substance abuse, verbal abuse, violence, illegal behavior);
- each parent's ability to provide the child with a consistent routine;
- geographic viability of the parenting plan (how far the child will have to travel between parents);
- the child's adjustment to their home and community;
- the child’s preference if the child is of mature age and understanding;
- evidence of domestic violence, if any;
- each parent's ability to provide a safe and stable environment for the child;
- the child's developmental age, needs, and abilities; and
- other relevant factors.
Florida law requires parents to submit a proposed parenting plan detailing their time sharing and parental responsibilities. If the parents can reach an agreement on their own, they can submit a single plan to the court for approval; if they cannot, the court will make the final decision based on the above factors in the child’s best interest.
Parenting plans must provide, at a minimum, the following information:
- how to share responsibilities for daily parenting tasks;
- time-sharing schedule;
- addresses for school registration and the child’s other activities;
- plan for how the parents will communicate with each other regarding the child; and
- which parent will be responsible for healthcare and school-related matters.
Modifying Existing Orders
The court understands that circumstances will naturally change for both the parents and the child. In most cases, the terms of a custody order will last until the child turns 18, but parents who experience a material change in circumstances may petition for an adjustment of the existing order. The longer an order has been in place, the likelier it may be changed. Note that the filing parent has the burden of proving that the change in circumstances affect the child's best interests and warrant a change in the existing terms of the agreement. An experienced attorney can better help with this process and build a strong case for modification.
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