Child Custody FAQs

If My Divorce Goes to Court, How Will the Judge Decide Who Gets Custody?

Florida law no longer uses the term “custody” and there is also no “primary” or “secondary” parent designation. These terms have been replaced with “time-sharing.” A parent may have majority time-sharing or there can be a 50/50 time-sharing split, where both parents have equal time-sharing. The court will make a time-sharing schedule based on what is in the “best interests of the child.” The judge will rely on the factors stated in Florida Statutes 61.13 to make this determination.

Do Grandparents Have a Legal Right to Visitation With Their Grandchildren?

No. Parents have a right to privacy and this includes how they raise their children. However, parents may voluntarily agree to visitation by grandparents. Any attempt to compel visitation with a grandparent is unconstitutional, except in certain limited circumstances, such as where the child is removed from the parent(s) physical custody or if both parents are deceased.

How Do I Change a Custody Agreement?

You can file a Petition for Modification of the Parenting Plan with the court. In order to have any chance of success, you will have to prove that there has been a material, substantial and unanticipated change in circumstances, from the date the parenting plan was court-ordered and that modification is in the best interests of the child.
Custody orders may also be changed if one party relocates or if the child has different needs.

When Can a Child Decide Which Parent to Live With?

There is no particular age when a child can decide which parent he/she wants to live with. The court will look at the “reasonable preference of the child” and if the child has “sufficient intelligence, understanding and experience to express a preference.” It is rare for the court to allow the child to testify, but if it does, it will be through an “in camera” examination where only the judge, the child and a court reporter are present. Attorneys, family members and the parents are not allowed.

What if My Spouse Tries to Move Away With the Kids?

It depends on how far he/she is moving and whether there is a pending Paternity or Dissolution of Marriage case in court. You must act quickly in a situation like this as Florida loses jurisdiction after the children have been gone out-of-state for at least 6 months, if there was no prior court order retaining jurisdiction.

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