How Hard is it To Be Granted Sole Custody in Florida?


As a parent, you will experience daily joys and struggles with your child. However, when having to co parent and share your child, can result in even more difficulties. Child custody is an extremely contentious and sensitive topic between separating partners. Defining the boundaries of your parenting relationship and who will retain custody of the child can promote an unhealthy environment. If you need assistance in your dispute, it is important to employ the skills of a knowledgeable and experienced Orlando Divorce Attorney to aid you in protecting your rights and interests. 

The main question presented to any family law attorney in regards to parenting is the ease to which one may retain sole custody of a shared child. Although a common question, this is not a common outcome. It is important to know and fully understand a sole custody award, and the factors that go into such a determination.

Florida courts have a rebuttable presumption of shared custody between parents. This arrangement encourages the child to have “frequent and continuing contact with both parents” and “encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing.” 61.13(c)(1). However, the court may overcome this presumption and find a sole custody arrangement to be in the best interest of the child if continued contact with one parent is found to be detrimental. Detriment can be seen in many different forms; however, it is a difficult burden to prove.

Previously, the court has stated, a parent’s use of drugs or alcohol can be seen as determinantal. Such use is difficult to prove without drug testing, previous arrests or evidence of entry into a rehabilitation facility. The court finds such addictions to be a serious impact on an individual’s role as a parent and in turn could greatly harm the child. If such addictions are left untreated, a parent is likely to lose all rights to a child. A parent’s previous history of child abuse or neglect is also a noteworthy form of detriment. This abuse is typically proven through witness testimony or investigative reports. This neglect will always result in the court taking a deeper look into the situation surrounding the child; as their physical needs may not be met on a daily basis with a parent and placing of a child into an abusive home could result in physical harm to a child. Further, a parent’s history of domestic violence or criminal record can all be considered detrimental to a child. These are rather easy to prove as most instances are documented in legal proceedings. Finally, the court may also take into account a parent’s physical and mental health. If a parent is battling own health restrictions, this may in turn affect their ability to provide for their own child’s needs. If you have concerns regarding your child’s safety and welfare in relation to your former partner, it is imperative to bring this evidence to the court to promote a safe environment for your child.

If the court does find, a sole custody arrangement to be in the best interest of the child, the court must make specific findings of fact noting the detriment that exists. Henderson v. Henderson, 162 So.3d 203 (Fla. 5th DCA 2015); Hunter v. Hunter, 540 So. 2d 235 (Fla. 3d DCA 1989). However, even if you are awarded sole custody the court is still likely to provide for supervised visits between the noncustodial parent and child, as well as a plan for reunification. Without a reunification plan, a judgment will be found legally deficient. The law requires the court to provide the noncustodial parent with a plan to direct their actions to obtaining contact and possible custody of their child in the future. Niekamp v. Niekamp, 173 So.3d 1106 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2015). However, before such change in custody would take place the court would require a hearing to ensure the noncustodial parent has in fact taken the proper steps to provide a safe and healthy environment for the child.

As a parent, your child’s happiness and safety is of the highest importance. If you feel that your partner is placing your child’s well-being in danger- discuss your situation with your Orlando Child Custody Attorney to see if obtaining sole parental responsibility could be the answer. Child custody is a sensitive and difficult issue and your Orlando Child Custody Attorney who can ensure that your rights  and your child are protected.

Speaking to an attorney at our office is free of charge, and we accept calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us at 407-512-0887 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with a member of our team today.

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