Florida Child Custody Attorneys
Child Custody Lawyers in Florida That Prioritize Your Family
Our team of attorneys knows the painful and consequential realities child custody litigation brings. At The Virga Law Firm, members of our legal staff have personal experience with child custody proceedings. Many are co-parents familiar with the emotional tribulations a custody case brings.
Whether going through a divorce or needing paternity establishment post-separation, let our compassionate Florida child custody attorneys defend your parental rights. With our experience and compassion, you do not have to face this emotionally turbulent time alone. Call (800) 822-5170for a consultation.
Understanding Florida's Child Custody Laws
In the state of Florida, custody is a “time-sharing” schedule arranged either by the court or between the two parents, as well as the division of parental responsibilities that will best suit the child's interests and foster a relationship between parents and their children. The time-sharing schedule will detail how long each parent spends with the child and any conditions.
"Parental responsibilities" involve decision-making aspects of the child’s life. Some of these areas include: healthcare provider, educational path, and out-of-school activities. The associated financial responsibility associated with these will be divided according to the court’s determination. Furthermore, the parental agreement is enforceable and it must be followed when both parents disagree.
Not all cases need to be tried before a judge. In many cases where both parties remain amicable and cooperative, neither spouse ever enters a courtroom. With your child’s best interest in mind, our Florida child custody attorneys can draft an agreement that meets your legal objectives. We will negotiate the creation of a mutually agreed upon parenting plan and submit it on your behalf. Allow The Virga Law Firm to assist you in avoiding the courtroom completely.
Types of Custody in Florida
- Parenting plan: A parenting plan must be made to decide which parent has which responsibilities over the child, such as making important decisions regarding their education, religious practices, medical care, and so on. Courts typically begin with the assumption that it is most beneficial for both parents to have a say in how to raise their child unless there is an outlying issue that would say otherwise.
- Timesharing: With a timesharing agreement, the court will approve how much time each parent gets to spend with their child after the divorce concludes. To prevent the child from frequently moving back and forth between two residences, time sharing will usually award one parent the majority of the time.
- Visitation: Technically, visitation is another name for timesharing in Florida. It is sometimes referred to as visitation when one parent can only see their child under the supervision of the other parent or another adult.
Our child custody lawyers are skilled in handling any and all of the above.
Time-Sharing Determination in FL
Family law in the state of Florida has changed over time. What the general population once knew as “custody” no longer exists. In 2011, Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) signed a bill into law that changes the concept of custody into two separate ideas.
Now, Florida considers two subsidiary factors:
- Parental responsibility
- Parental time-sharing
Under this new approach, no parent is entirely removed from either aspect, unless a rare circumstance necessitates such for the child’s welfare or safety. The legal terminology better reflects the court's focus on what is best for the child.
How Custody is Determined in Florida
The court decides custody based on what they determine is in the best interests of the child. A judge will decide if one parent will be awarded the full responsibilities in a parenting plan, or if those responsibilities will be jointly held. In some contexts, this is referred to as sole custody and joint custody. As mentioned, the court often prefers to establish joint or shared responsibilities if possible.
At the Virga Law Firm, P.A., our child custody lawyers in Florida analyze a number of factors to present the best possible case for your parental rights and your child’s welfare.
Factors we consider include:
- Child’s Education and School Location - Your child’s educational development and environment are considered in terms of his/her best interests.
- Current and Proposed Living Arrangements - Your child’s existing living environment may be looked at as well as any future post-resolution arrangements.
- Financial Situation of Parents - The court will evaluate the financial situation of both parents. This will take into consideration any child support and employment factors.
- Evaluation of Parental Plan - The parental plan reflects the parent’s priorities in regards to their child. Courts can use this to help determine parental ability.
- Physical and Mental Health of Parents - If the physical or mental health of a parent could negatively affect a child’s welfare, it will be considered by the court.
- Parental Involvement - The opinion of the child’s educators and the family’s associates may be considered.
- Parental Flexibility - The willingness to adapt to shifting parental responsibilities could be evaluated in terms of your child’s best interests.
- Evidence of Domestic Violence- The safety of your child is a critical consideration. Accusations and evidence of violent crimes will be analyzed. If it is determined that safety is an issue, supervised visitation may be ordered.
We understand the importance of developing a parenting plan that defends your child’s welfare and your legal rights. Our child custody lawyers in Florida are focused on developing a time-sharing schedule that best displays your ability to raise your child in a loving and safe environment.
Parental Responsibility Determination in Florida
Parental Responsibilities deal with the decision-making aspects of your child’s upbringing.
In 21st-century law, parents can share parental responsibility regardless of the child’s physical location. (According to Florida statute, the areas of responsibility are education, healthcare, and “other responsibilities that the court finds unique to the family.”)
Our Florida custody lawyers will work with you to develop a plan that reflects your goals and provides for your child’s best interests.
Florida law provides three forms of parental responsibility:
- Shared Parental Responsibility - This is the most common form of parental responsibility. Both parents must confer with one another and come to a mutual agreement on all decisions pertaining to the child. Should the parents fail to come to terms on a matter, they must return to court.
- Shared Responsibility with Ultimate Decision-Making Authority - In this case, both parents are still expected to confer with one another for all decisions. However, one parent is granted the final authority on all decisions should both parties fail to reach an agreement.
- Sole Parental Responsibility - This is the most uncommon form of parental responsibility. If shared responsibility is determined to negatively impact a child’s welfare, one parent may be granted sole decision-making authority. Often, this occurs when one parent is in jail, addicted to drugs or alcohol, or poses a risk of harm to the child or co-parent.
10 Tips to Get Through a Custody Battle
- Always follow the court order – Follow it even when the other parent does not. It is never wise to disregard the Judge’s order; they are the ones that make the ultimate decision regarding custody and/or visitation in child custody cases.
- Be flexible when co-parenting with the other parent – The key issue in determining child custody cases is which parent is more likely to foster a meaningful relationship with the other parent. Make sure that you have done everything to ensure the other parent gets meaningful time with the child. This flexibility is often hard, but if pays big dividends during a child custody hearing.
- Never turn down time with your child – Always, make your child your first priority. Accept time that the other parent is willing to forfeit. Not only will it increase your bond with your child, it often makes excellent evidence in a child custody case.
- Support your child not only emotionally, but financially as well – Pay support if your child is not living with you the majority of the time. Even when the other parent isn't following their orders, don’t stop paying child support; let the judge deal with it. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
- Keep a detailed calendar and/or record of events as they relate to visitation – Any relevant events and problems you may be having with your former partner. This is a good way to refresh your memory before trial and to keep your lawyer informed.
- Be involved in all facets of your child’s life – Talk with your child’s teachers, coaches, doctors, etc. Often, these individuals make great witnesses if they believe that you are a good parent and active in your child’s life. They may also notice differences in your child caused by the divorce, or your child may confide in them.
- Your child only has one mother and one father – Never let or encourage your child to call a new partner mom or dad. This is not only confusing the child, but shows that you do not respect the other parent and their relationship with the child.
- Never disparage the other parent in front of your child – Even if you are angry with the other parent, never say anything bad about the other parent to your child or in front of your child. This includes posting things on social media. Remember, they are your child’s parent, too, regardless of how you feel about them.
- Do not make unilateral decisions regarding your child – Make sure you include the other parent in making decisions that pertain to the child. If you cannot agree, then counseling could be beneficial, but if an agreement can’t be reached, then take the matter before the judge.
- Make these decisions because they are the right things to do, not just because they will benefit you in court – Nothing is as important as being a good and loving parent to your child. Protect and love them during this difficult time—it’s the most important thing you can do for them.
Call Our Florida Child Custody Lawyers – (800) 822-5170
Our team of Florida child custody attorneys understands the complex and emotional aspects involved with child custody cases. Whether you are looking for child custody lawyers for mothers or lawyers who fight for fathers’ rights, turn to us for help.
Through in-depth analysis, dedicated preparation, and personal professional experience, The Virga Law Firm can help you accomplish your legal goals both inside and out of the courtroom. And if you ever need to modify your custody agreement in the future, we can help with that too.
Gerard Virga Founding Attorney
David Lohr Executive Director/Attorney
Chad Self Fort Walton Beach Managing Attorney
William West Ritchie Panama City Managing Attorney
Taylor Tippel Panama City Beach Managing Attorney
Andrea Ansley Attorney
Christopher Melendez Attorney
April Hand Operations Manager and Florida Registered Paralegal
Danny Durnbaugh Chief Financial Officer
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