Disputes over where children will live after a divorce, as well as how much time they will spend with each parent, can sometimes get intense. Even when parents are in basic agreement, working out the details can be stressful; which is why it benefits you to contact an experienced family attorney.

All decisions relating to your children must support their best interests. A Pinecrest child custody lawyer can provide guidance based on our years of experience helping parents navigate custody issues.

The Basics of Child Custody in Pinecrest

Although people often still use the term “custody,” the law in Florida refers to the time a parent cares for their children in their home as “parenting time.” A parent’s ability to make decisions for their children is called “parental responsibility.”

Courts believe it is in the children’s best interests to have a meaningful relationship with both parents and so typically favor shared parenting time, unless there is a good reason to limit one parent’s access. The law does not favor either gender in custody decisions: A father and a mother have equal rights to parenting time.

Divorcing parents must develop a parenting plan that lays out where the children will live, who will be the residential parent for school registration purposes, how the parents will handle transporting the children, where they will spend holidays, and many other details. A Pinecrest attorney can help a parent create, negotiate, and review a child custody plan to ensure it meets the law’s requirements.

The Children’s Best Interests in Custody Decisions

Family courts encourage parents to develop a parenting plan themselves or, if necessary, work with a mediator or collaborative divorce team. Parents know their children’s needs and desires, as well as each other’s strengths and weaknesses as parents. When parents cannot agree, each side usually submits a parenting plan and the Judge either picks one or creates a new plan.

When the parents develop a plan, they must submit it to the court for approval. The Judge will evaluate the plan according to whether it supports the children’s best interests. According to Florida Statutes § 61.13, some of the factors a court could consider when determining children’s best interests include:

  • Each parent’s ability to put the children’s needs before their own;
  • The parents’ mental and physical health;
  • How long the children have lived in a stable environment and whether maintaining the current environment is desirable;
  • Each parent’s willingness and capacity to honor the parenting plan;
  • Each parent’s ability to work with the other parent to be a parental team acting in the children’s interests;
  • Each parent’s ability to provide structure, discipline, and routine;
  • Any evidence of substance abuse;
  • Any evidence of domestic violence, child abuse, child neglect, or sexual abuse.

If the children are old enough and mature enough to present an opinion, their own preferences could influence, but not dictate, the Judge’s decision.

Sometimes one parent believes the other parent should not have significant custody time. The Judge would not limit parenting time without proof that a parent poses a danger to the child. In appropriate circumstances, a Pinecrest child custody attorney can help a parent show that allowing children significant unsupervised time with a co-parent would go against the children’s best interests.

Parenting Plan Modifications

As children grow, they develop different needs and interests; and as parents move on after a divorce, their availability for parenting time might change. Florida law allows parents to modify a parenting plan to accommodate changes in some circumstances.

If parents agree to the change, a Pinecrest attorney could make a written modification to the parenting plan and submit it to the court. As with the original parenting plan, the Judge must review it to ensure that it supports the children’s best interests. If the court approves, it will issue the modified plan as an enforceable court order.

If the parents disagree, the parent seeking modification must bring a motion in court. The requesting parent must show there has been a significant, unanticipated change in circumstances that requires a modification. Even if the court accepts the requesting parent’s arguments, it will not approve a modification that is not in the best interests of the children.

Contact a Pinecrest Child Custody Attorney Today for Assistance with a Parenting Plan

Few things are as precious as a parent’s relationship with their children. Parents sometimes feel like a divorce threatens that relationship.

A Pinecrest child custody lawyer can assist you in developing a parenting plan that allows you to preserve your role as an active parent. Call us today to discuss your needs during a free consultation with The Florida Probate & Family Law Firm.