How to Determine Child Custody and Visitation
The court expects parents to protect their children from the emotional trauma associated with divorce. A child's life is turned upside down when his or her parents separate. The goal of a court's determination of custody and visitation is to provide a living arrangement that is in the best interests of a child's welfare, consistent with the twenty factors found in Florida Statues 61.13.
Most parents agree that they want to provide what is best for their children, but frequently parents disagree as to the best way to accomplish this goal. When the parents disagree about custody arrangements, they need an experienced attorney to represent their interests. For over 34 years, the Orlando Law Firm of Kenneth D. Morse has advised parents about child custody, and represented their interests in court.
Child Custody Determinations
Child custody should be based on your child's best interests, and not the parent's emotional or financial concerns. In Florida, the custodial parent receives child support, and the non-custodial parent must make payments. Even though it is in the best interests of the child to live with one parent, the other parent may seek custody, just to avoid or minimize child support payments.
Effective October 1, 2008, the Florida Legislature enacted a new version of Florida statue 61.13, governing child custody.
Gone are the designations of “primary custody”, “sole custody and rotating custody, which are all, replaced by the term “parenting plan”.
A parenting plan is now required in every case, and which must describe in adequate detail how parents will share responsibility for the daily tasks involved in raising a child, designating time sharing, which parent shall be responsible on the issues of health, education and activities for the child, and the method by which the parents will communicate.
In determining which parent will have more time, more authority, and all other issues of a parenting plan, and in the absence of an agreement between the parents, the court must now consider the following twenty factors:
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
- The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
- The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child.
- The moral fitness of the parents.
- The mental and physical health of the parents.
- The home, school, and community record of the child.
- The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
- The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
- The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
- Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought.
- Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
- The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
- The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.
- The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.
- Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-share schedule.
If you were not awarded primary custody over your child, you have a right to extensive contact with your children. Visitation is awarded to parents, absent a showing of abuse or neglect. If you seek to obtain or modify visitation, Orlando Family lawyer Kenneth Morse will represent your interests through the process.
For more information about child custody and visitation, contact the law office of Kenneth D. Morse. Attorney Morse represents people throughout Central Florida including Orlando, Windermere, Kissimmee, Celebration, Sanford, Lake Mary, Daytona Beach, Tavares, Clearwater, and Melbourne.