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The basics of determining child custody in Florida

by | Jul 23, 2021 | Family Law

Just because you are getting divorced from your spouse does not mean you will stop being your children’s mom or dad. When parents in Lake County get a divorce, figuring out child custody is one of the most important parts of the process.

You probably know what you want out of your future child custody order. But before you can reach a reasonable settlement with your ex, you should know something about how Florida law deals with custody. Here is a brief overview.

Two types of child custody

First, you should know that there are two forms of child custody: physical custody (how much time the children spend with each parent) and legal custody (the right to make important child-rearing decisions). In Florida, we call physical custody “parenting time” and legal custody “parental responsibility.”

These are separate matters. Even when one parent receives sole custody and the other only has visitation time, divorced parents generally share parental responsibility. Both get a say in things like choosing the kids’ schools, pediatricians and religious upbringing. However, courts will award parental responsibility to one parent when the other is unfit due to domestic violence, mental incompetence, etc.

The child’s needs matter — not the parents’ gender

Florida’s custody laws do not give preference to mothers. In fact, the primary consideration in any custody matter is the child’s best interests — not either parent’s gender or preferences. Those best interests depend on individual factors like the child’s age, prior relationship with each parent, the parents’ ability to care for the child, where the child’s friends and other relatives live, and so on.

Most cases settle out of court

In most divorces, the parents negotiate their own parenting plan with the help of their divorce attorneys. Mediation can be helpful. The judge will have to decide based on evidence each parent provides in court for the most contentious cases.