Understanding Child Custody In Florida

October 10, 2022

Types Of Child Custody (Time Sharing) In Florida

If you're facing a child custody dispute or in the middle of a divorce involving minor children, then it is likely that you have heard of the concepts of physical and legal custody. These are two basic concepts of child custody explained generally below:

1.    Sole Custody Vs. Joint Custody (Time Sharing)

  • Sole Custody (Sole Parental Responsibility), refers to a parent who is solely responsible for the child such that only one parent makes the major decisions regarding the child.
  • Joint Custody (Shared Parental Responsibility) allows parents to share custody of their child so that each parent retains full responsibility and rights with respect their child (or children). When parents have 50/50 custody, the child spends time with both parents equally, or almost equally, and both parents are allowed to make decisions for their child so that major decisions affecting the welfare of the child are determined by the parents jointly.

If the parents have joint custody of the minor child, they can share physical custody (with the child spending time at both parents' homes), as well as legal custody in which the parents share the ability to make important decisions for the child including everything from education to health care.

IMPORTANT TIP: Every case is different because the dynamics of every family is different. Similarly, child custody agreements (and, more specifically, Time Sharing schedules) can be created and developed in a manner that fits the unique needs of your particular family. Therefore, it is vital that you consult with an experienced attorney regarding your family needs so that you may be advised thoroughly pertaining to the facts of your case as it relates to child custody.

2.    Visitation

The State of Florida appreciates the benefits that a child experiences when they grow up with guidance from both parents. Non-custodial parents are usually granted visitation rights unless a judge feels a parent should not have access to their child.

When a non-custodial parent is granted visitation, they can spend time with their child. The type and extent of visitation a non-custodial parent is allowed will depend on the circumstances of the case.

Visitation can be unsupervised or supervised. When a parent has unsupervised visitation, they are allowed to spend time with their child alone, including overnight visits. If a parent is only allowed supervised visitation, the parent is not allowed to be alone with the child. Supervised visitations occur at a pre-determined location.

How Is Custody Determined In Florida?

If parents agree, they can come up with their parenting plan, which contains the details of the child custody arrangement. The parenting plan is a required document (when minor children are involved) that governs the relationship between the parents relating to decisions that must be made regarding the minor child. The parenting plan must contain a time-sharing schedule for the parents and child.

The issues concerning the minor child may include, but are not limited to, the child’s education, health care, and physical, social, and emotional well-being.

If the parents can’t agree on a parenting plan, a family court judge can help determine a fair parenting plan arrangement with the help of a court appointed expert who conducts an investigation, drafts a written study, and makes recommendations to the judge. This is called a social investigation. [i]

Florida Parenting Plans

For child custody matters in Florida, you'll need to have a parenting plan in place. This requirement is mandatory under Florida law. Parenting plans outline details regarding child custody and the responsibilities the parents will share, among other things. The more detailed the plan, the better.

Parenting plans, must include at a minimum, the following: [ii]

  • A detailed description of how the parents will share and be responsible for the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child,
  • A time-sharing schedule arrangement that specifies the time that the minor child will spend with each parent,
  • A specific description of any and all forms of health care,
  • A detailed description of the minor child’s school-related matters, including the address to be used for school-boundary determination and registration, and
  • A description of the methods and technologies that the parents will use to communicate with the child.

Parents who can come together and agree can create their parenting plan and submit it to the court for approval.

Child Custody Modification

It is not uncommon for parents to want to modify an existing child custody arrangement or parenting plan. A modified child custody arrangement or parenting plan may be approved by a court upon a showing of a substantial, material, and unanticipated change in circumstances and a determination that the modification is in the best interests of the child. Determination of the best interests of the child shall be made by evaluating all of the factors affecting the welfare and interests of the particular minor child and the circumstances of that family. [iii]

How A Child Custody Attorney In Florida Can Help

While you can handle your child custody matters independently, it is always best to have the help of an experienced child custody attorney on your side.

Your child custody lawyer can handle every detail of your case, including:

  • Informing you of your parental rights and answering your questions,
  • Drafting and filing required paperwork,
  • Developing the ideal legal strategy,
  • Gathering relevant evidence,
  • Assisting with the creation of a parenting plan,
  • Communicating with the opposing party,
  • Handling custody modification and enforcement, and/or
  • Representing you in court.

A qualified Florida child custody attorney is well-versed in the applicable laws and knows how to handle your case from start to finish accurately. If you're facing a child custody battle, do not hesitate to consult with a Florida child custody lawyer as soon as possible to begin working on your case.

Frequently Asked Questions About Child Custody

1.   My Child's Other Parent Isn't Following The Child Custody Arrangement. What Can I Do?

While parenting plans and child custody arrangements must always be followed (because they are considered court ordered once approved by the court), some parents view it as more of a suggestion, electing to do whatever they want instead.

You may have legal options if your child's other parent isn't following the parenting plan. To start, document every time the other parent violates the arrangement. If possible, discuss these issues with them.

If the other parent continues to violate your arrangement, you can file a Motion with the court. A family law attorney can help you with this process, including appearing in court on your behalf. Both parents will need to attend court, and if the other parent is found in contempt, they face possible sanctions by the court.

2.   What Type Of Consequences (Sanctions) Can A Judge Order If The Court Finds That A Parent Has Violated The Parenting Plan?

Parenting plans are court ordered and a judge may issue sanctions for violating the parenting plan without cause, including, but not limited to: [iv]

  1. Award the parent denied time a sufficient amount of extra time-sharing to compensate for the time-sharing missed,
  2. May order the parent who did not provide time-sharing to pay reasonable court costs and attorney’s fees incurred by the nonoffending parent to enforce the time-sharing schedule,
  3. May order the parent who did not provide time-sharing to attend a parenting course approved by the judicial circuit,
  4. May order the parent who did not provide time-sharing to do community service if the order will not interfere with the welfare of the child,
  5. May order the parent who did not provide time-sharing to have the financial burden of promoting frequent and continuing contact when that parent and child reside further than 60 miles from the other parent,
  6. May modify the parenting plan if modification is in the best interests of the child, and
  7. May impose other reasonable sanctions deemed appropriate by the judge.

3.   Can You Stop Paying Court Ordered Child Support If The Other Parent Violates A Time Sharing Schedule?

No. Under Florida law, when a parent refuses to honor the other parent’s rights under the time-sharing schedule, the parent whose time-sharing rights were violated shall continue to pay any ordered child support or alimony. [v]

4.   Can You Violate A Court Ordered Time Sharing Schedule If The Other Parent Fails To Pay Child Support (Or Alimony)?

No. Under Florida law, when a parent refuses to honor the other parent’s rights under the time-sharing schedule, the parent whose time-sharing rights were violated shall continue to pay any ordered child support or alimony. [vi]

Discuss Your Case With A Florida Child Custody Attorney

At The Joseph Firm, P.A., you can always expect to receive the highest-quality legal representation. Our attorneys are experienced and knowledgeable in family law, including child custody and support. We've had the pleasure of serving numerous clients in the South Florida area, and we're always ready and eager to help more clients reach the outcome they deserve.

When you're ready to discuss your case, The Joseph Firm, P.A. is ready to hear your story. Child custody attorneys at The Joseph Firm, P.A. prioritize helping our clients with determining custody, visitation, parental responsibility and more under Florida law. Reach out to The Joseph Firm, P.A. at (305) 501-0992 or contact us online.

A child custody lawyer from Joseph Firm, P.A. can make your family law issues easier for you and your children. We focus on divorce, child custody, paternity, modifications to time-sharing, and all other areas of family law.

Our team takes a personalized approach to every case, as we understand that every client's situation and needs are unique. We're committed to serving you in any way we can, striving to go the extra mile when you need us most.

Our firm offers case evaluations. To schedule a meeting with one of our Miami FL family law attorneys, call us at (305) 501-0992 or contact us online.


[i]See Florida Statute § 61.20 (Florida law stating that “[i]n any action where the parenting plan is at issue because the parents are unable to agree, the court may order asocial investigation and study concerning all pertinent details relating to the child and each parent when such an investigation has not been done and the study therefrom provided to the court by the parties or when the court determines that the investigation and study that have been done are insufficient.”).

[ii] See Fla. Stat. §61.13(2)(b)(1)-(4).

[iii] See Fla. Stat.§ 61.13(3).

[iv] See Fla. Stat. §61.13(4)(c)(1)-(7).

[v] See Fla. Stat. §61.13(4)(b).

[vi] See Fla. Stat. §61.13(4)(a).