Pensacola Child Custody Lawyer
Dedicated Child Custody Lawyers Serving Escambia County, Florida
The most difficult part of a family law case to navigate is timesharing, also known as visitation or child custody. It is excruciating for many parents to think of losing time with their child due to their divorce, and so it becomes the most difficult decision for the parties and for judges to make.
Having a skilled Pensacola child custody attorney on your side can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. We take the time to get to know our clients so that we can understand their goals and craft effective strategies to achieve those goals.
Does a Court Determine Parental Responsibility?
Parental responsibility is the first tier. This determines who is responsible for making major decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. In Florida, it is most common for parents to share parental responsibility of a child. Unless there is abuse or some other extreme factor, both parents are responsible for raising the child and making decisions about the child’s education, medical care, and general upbringing.
In some exceptional cases, one parent may have sole parental responsibility. To give sole parental responsibility to one parent, the Court must find that shared parenting would be detrimental to the child. It is most often awarded in cases in which one parent has abused a child, has a history of domestic violence, or is incapable of maintaining sound judgment when caring for the child.
There is also responsibility designation, which requires the parties to share in the responsibility but gives ultimate decision-making authority to one parent. Sometimes people say that this is like having the veto power to make a decision, but in the event of parental disagreement, one party would then make the choice. This is also a rare designation and the Judge must find that there is a need for this tiebreaker vote to be given to one parent over the other.
Timesharing & Visitation in Florida
After a Court determines the parental responsibility for a child, the next step is to determine what the timesharing or visitation schedule should be. Lately, there have been rumors and discussion about how Florida is a 50/50 state or a father’s rights state. This is in some ways true and in others not.
In the last 10 years, Florida’s child visitation laws have changed a lot to make the focus on child custody and timesharing based on the individual needs of the child instead of a hard-and-fast rule. The Florida courts are now required to consider what the best interest of the child is as opposed to standard visitation schedules. In fact, Florida doesn’t even use the term “custody.” It has been replaced with the term “timesharing.”
While some say that mothers used to have the upper hand in custody matters, the Florida legislature has now erased the presumptions that used to exist regarding mothers and fathers. Now, courts are required to look just at the best interest of the child and not the gender of the parent when determining timesharing and parental responsibility.
Parental Alienation and Child Custody in FL
“Parental alienation” is not a term thrown about lightly in family law cases and child custody disputes. It’s actually a very complex legal and psychological term that has to be proven by many different factors.
The most heartbreaking thing about parental alienation is that, over time, the alienating parent may convince the child to fall out of love with the other parent. It is a significant form of child abuse and children have a hard time recovering from it. These types of cases may (and often do) involve false allegations of abuse. Other times, parental alienation can simply be the constant undermining of the relationship between the child and his or her other parent.
Parental alienation cases can be difficult to prove, which means you need good legal help on your side if your ex-partner is trying to take away your child by convincing him or her you are a bad person or parent. Autumn Beck Blackledge, PLLC has handled these types of cases before, including a two-and-a-half-year case where the alienated parent was awarded full custody of the child.
If there are parental alienation factors in your child custody case, speak with a lawyer today to learn more about your legal rights and options.
How Do I Determine the Best Interest of the Child?
Florida Statute outlines the factors that courts are to consider when determining the best interest of the child. In chapter 61, the statute outlines the thirteen factors.
Some of the big factors include:
- The capacity of each parent to cooperate, facilitate parent-child relationships, and honor time-sharing schedules. Parents must work together as a team and help to facilitate a relationship with the child as well as the relationship between the child and her other parent. Parents must also honor time-sharing schedules. This is often the primary consideration of the Court when there are hard decisions to be made about timesharing between two good parents.
- The anticipated division of parental responsibilities to each parent and to third parties. The courts will consider how parental responsibilities will be divided between parents as determined by work schedules and other factors. Courts also consider which responsibilities will be delegated to third parties such as grandparents or daycares.
- The capacity of each parent to act in the best interest of the child. Judges strongly consider which parents prioritize their children over their own needs. If you use the child as a pawn or put your own needs first, the Courts put a lot of weight on this.
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability of maintaining continuity. Is one house stable and the other chaotic? Is one riddled with insecurity and the other stable? These are things the Court will look at.
- The moral fitness of each parent and their mental and physical health. Parents must be upstanding and able to set a good moral example for children. If mental or physical health issues exist, how does it impact the child and are these conditions well managed?
- Reasonable preferences of the child. If the child is considered mature enough to be capable of evaluating the situation, his preferences will be taken into account. There is no magic age for this. Many parents will ask when their child can decide who to live with. The answer is never. However, when the child is mature enough to have a preference, those preferences could be considered.
- The capacity of each parent to communicate with the other parent and adopt a unified front. The ability to co-parent with the other parent is a major factor.
- Evidence of domestic abuse, child abuse, or false allegations of abuse. Any evidence of domestic abuse, child abuse, or child neglect will be strongly considered, as this could compromise the child’s safety. If one parent is falsely accusing the other of abuse, that also is considered and often backfires on the accusing parent.
- The capacity of each parent to maintain an environment free from substance abuse. Substance abuse often leads to an unhealthy environment for children and is one of the major causes of divorce. If substance abuse is present, it will be evaluated.
- The capacity of each parent to protect the child from ongoing litigation. Divorce and child custody cases are traumatic for children. If a parent talks to their child about the case and puts their adult worries onto the child, this will weigh heavily against that parent.
Ultimately, if the parties cannot agree on a parenting plan that suits the best interests of the child or children, then the Court will fashion one for them. It will outline the days each parent spends with the child as well as holidays and summer visitation. The parenting plan can outline anything and everything regarding decisions for a child.
Our Pensacola Child Custody Lawyers Can Help
In the end, as complicated as the legal particulars can be, there are plenty of good scenarios for timesharing for children that can meet the needs and best interests of the child and the parents. Legal professionals – like our Pensacola child custody attorneys – and parenting experts can help parents think of real-life solutions to complex parenting issues.
Anyone who finds themselves involved in a situation regarding child custody should consult with an attorney who can give them real advice on child custody and timesharing in Florida.