Judges in Florida view parents as equals when they enter the court regarding a custody matter. If one parent alleges that he or she should have full custody of the children, that parent has the burden of proving why full custody is in the best interest of the children.
How is Custody Determined in Florida?
Legal custody refers to the authority to make decisions for your child, including matters related to education, health care, religion, and activities. Physical custody refers to which parent the child lives with as the child’s primary residence.
Florida courts prefer to see parenting plans and time-sharing plans that provide equal access for the child with each parent.
The concept of Parental responsibility has replaced the term of legal custody. Parents often share parental responsibility so that each parent has an equal say in the major decisions impacting their children’s lives.
Time-sharing replaced physical custody and visitation. The time-sharing plan sets forth when the child will be with each parent. Ideally, the courts like to see plans that provide equal time with each parent, but that may not always be possible given the parents’ circumstances.
If the parents cannot agree on a parenting and time-sharing plan, the court can order a plan based on the child’s best interest. Even though the parents may agree to a plan, the court will always review the plan to ensure that the terms of the plan are in the child’s best interest.
When Does the Court Grant Sole Custody to a Parent?
A judge may grant sole parental responsibility to one parent in certain circumstances. A patent must prove factors such as the following to receive sole custody:
- The parent has a drug or alcohol abuse problem that impairs his ability to care for the child;
- There are allegations of domestic violence or child abuse or a past history of domestic violence;
- The parent is living with someone that could pose a threat or harm to the child;
- The parent suffers from demonstrated psychological problems that affect their ability to responsibly parent;
- The parent is an established flight risk with the child;
- There are allegations of neglect against the parent;
- The parent has not been a part of the child’s life until very recently;
- The parent is unable to provide a safe, stable home for the child.
Depending on the situation and the facts in the case, the court may give the mother sole physical custody of the child as well. The court could order supervised visitation with the father or limited visitation depending on the circumstances. If there is no risk of harm, the court could grant the father liberal visitation even though the mother has sole parental responsibility.
It is important to remember that the courts favor plans that provide joint custody. The mother must provide convincing evidence to the court that it is in the child’s best interest for the father not to have any say in how his child is being raised. Mothers who want to seek sole custody might want to find an experienced custody attorney as soon as possible to begin preparing a case.
Are There Things a Parent Can Do to Increase the Chance of Receiving Full Custody?
Hiring a child custody lawyer who has extensive experience handling contested custody matters is the best step a mother can take to prepare for a custody battle. However, there are other steps a parent can take when preparing to battle for full custody:
- Spend as much time with your child as possible;
- Keep detailed notes about how much time your child spends with his or her father;
- Design a work schedule that allows you to be at home when your child is not in school;
- Make sure that you are involved in all decisions regarding your child’s education, health care, and other matters;
- Demonstrate good parenting skills, such as helping with homework, using appropriate discipline, and providing adequate supervision;
- Make notes about activities and appointments that your child’s other parent misses;
- Ensure that your home is suitable, safe, and clean;
- Never discuss your child’s other parent in front of or with your child;
- Take photographs to document the above items.