For parents involved in a divorce with children, the most important and emotional issue is the mutual right to raise their children and spend time with them. In determining custody and visitation rights, the Florida courts focus on one primary concern: serving the best interests of the children. In uncontested and collaborative law divorces, the courts will usually respect the parents’ decisions regarding custody and visitation; however, the courts do have the authority to question an agreed-upon arrangement if it does not appear to serve the best interests of the couple’s children.
If you are preparing to go through a divorce with children in Florida, it is important to understand the types of custody and visitation available. Knowing your options will allow you to prepare in advance to obtain the rights you desire.
Parental Responsibility and Time-Sharing – Custody and Visitation in Florida
Before we get started, it is important to note that Florida’s law governing child custody and visitation rights in connection with a divorce actually uses the terms “time-sharing” and “parental responsibility” rather than the traditional terms of custody and visitation. Since most people still think in terms of custody and visitation, we refer to these terms in this article as well.
Shared Parental Responsibility and Sole Parental Responsibility
In Florida, the concept of “parental responsibility” refers to the parents’ rights for both parents to make decisions for the health, education, and well being of their children.
Shared Parental Responsibility
With shared parental responsibility, the parents each have rights with respect to making important life decisions for their children. They will also split time with their children. This is the time-sharing concept. The time-sharing schedule will – like all child-related matters – need to take into consideration the best interests of the children, and may depend on factors such as:
- The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the divorce;
- The children’s need for stability;
- The parents’ respective abilities to provide a safe, nurturing environment;
- Any history of domestic violence, assault, or drug abuse.
If the children are old enough and the court deems them of “sufficient intelligence,” their preference can factor into the parents’ time-sharing arrangement as well. But in most cases, the children do not testify.
Sole Parental Responsibility
In strictly limited circumstances, the Florida courts will award sole parental responsibility. However, even in these cases, the parents most likely will have a time-sharing arrangement (visitation) if it serves the best interests of their children.
Speak with a Divorce Lawyer Today
Florida’s laws affecting divorcing parents’ rights with regard to their children can be difficult to navigate. At Beller & Bustamante, P.L., we are deeply experienced in helping parents fight for and obtain the custody and visitation rights they desire. To discuss your situation with one of our divorce attorneys, call (904) 288-4414 or schedule a consultation online today.