Florida State Custody And Visitation Guidelines
FLORIDA REFERS TO
CUSTODY AND VISITATION
“SHARED PARENTAL RESPONSBILITY” AND “TIMESHARING”
In 2008 Florida abolished the use of the words “custody” and “visitation” in all family law actions. Instead of “primary residential” parenting or custody, Florida statutes will use the term “shared parental responsibility”. Instead of the word “visitation”, Florida statutes and judges and divorce attorneys are required to use the word “time-sharing”.
It is hoped that the statutory changes will cause battling parents in family law cases to diminish their fighting and attempt to cooperate more with each other for the benefit of the children. However, the “jury” has not yet returned on what will be the actual effect. At the very least, this change will result in a transitional stage to cause individuals to start thinking about their children in a less proprietary fashion.
Parenting Plans Required
A potentially more important change is the requirement that judges, attorneys, and parties draft more detailed and robust parenting plans. Parenting plans have become far more detailed involving all issues of the children in their daily lives, in communication between the parents and the children, and other activities concerning the children.
Time-Sharing in Florida
Florida refers to a shared joint child custody arrangement as time-sharing. Time-sharing is a type of visitation where one parent is awarded physical custody of a child while the other parent is awarded generous visitation. Florida family courts prefer a shared custody arrangement that allows both parents to enjoy liberal time with a child.
Best Interests of the Child
A Florida family court will establish child custody or time-sharing based on the best interests of the child. In determining best interests of the child, a court will consider the following factors:
- Each parent’s willingness to encourage and support a relationship between the child and the other parent, to honor a time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes occur
- Each parent’s ability to respond to the child’s needs as opposed his/her own needs
- The mental, physical, and emotional health of the parents
- The stability of the child’s home environment
- Any history of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect
- The child’s wishes, if the court deems the child to be of a sufficient age, intelligence, understanding and experience (generally age 12 or older)
- Each parent’s ability to be involved with the child’s school and extracurricular activities
Relocation and Child Custody in Florida
A Florida court will agree to one parent relocating with a child if both parents sign a written agreement which:
- Expresses consent to the relocation
- Explains the time-sharing schedule for the non-relocating parent and any other persons entitled to access or time-sharing
- Describes transportation arrangements related to access or time-sharing
- The parent who wishes to relocate must serve a signed petition to the other parent, regarding the relocation, as soon as reasonably possible.
Modification of Child Custody in Florida
A child custody order will not be modified in Florida unless a parent or a third party can show a substantial, material, or unanticipated change in circumstances. The modification must serve the child’s best interests.
Temporary Custody of Minor Children by Extended Family
Florida also allows for temporary custody (time sharing) of minor children by extended family. Florida recognizes that many minor children in this state live with and are well cared for by members of their extended families. The parents of these children have often provided for their care by placing them temporarily with another family member who is better able to care for them. Because of the care being provided the children by their extended families, they are not dependent children.
Temporary or concurrent custody proceedings may be brought by any extended family member who has the signed, notarized consent of the child’s legal parents; or any extended family member who is caring full time for the child in the role of a substitute parent and with whom the child is presently living. An individual seeking concurrent custody must currently have physical custody of the child and have had physical custody of the child for at least 10 days in any 30-day period within the last 12 months; and
Petition for temporary or concurrent custody.
A petition for temporary or concurrent custody of a minor child must be verified by the petitioner, who must be an extended family member. At the hearing on the petition for temporary or concurrent custody, the court must hear the evidence concerning a minor child’s need for care by the petitioner, all other matters required to be set forth in the petition, and the objections or other testimony of the child’s parents, if present. Unless the minor child’s parents object, the court may award temporary or concurrent custody of the child to the petitioner if it is in the best interest of the child.
Registration of an Out of State Custody Order in Florida
Before a foreign court order is modifiable, the foreign support order needs to be registered pursuant to Florida Statute §88.6021 (2013). A child support order of another state may be registered in Florida by sending two copies of the order, one of them certified, to the appropriate Florida court with a letter of transmittal requesting registration and enforcement. The orders and letter must be accompanied by a sworn or certified statement showing the amount of any arrearage and information to identify the obligor and the means by which the order may be enforced against him or her, the obligee, and the agency or person to whom support payments are to be remitted. An order is deemed registered when it is filed in the Florida court and is enforceable in the same manner as a Florida order. The non-registering party then has 20 days to request a hearing to contest the registration of an order, the remedies sought, or the amount of any alleged arrearage, or to assert any defense to alleged noncompliance with the order.
Paternity in Florida
Every child has the right to know and be known by his or her father. When you establish paternity your child gains legal benefits, including the right to benefit financially from the birth father. This may include receiving regular child support, a legal right to death benefits, and/or any possible inheritance. Choosing not to formally establish paternity may result in the loss of these potential benefits for the child.
- Establishing paternity also allows your child to potentially be informed of any genetic medical issues that could have been passed on from the birth father.
Voluntarily Establishing Paternity
If you would like to formally establish paternity, the father of the minor child must voluntarily acknowledge paternity. In doing so, the father agrees to accept responsibility for the child and pay child support until the child reaches the age of majority. The birth father can voluntarily acknowledge paternity in two ways:
- Sign a Declaration of Paternity or Acknowledgment of Paternity. This documentation is necessary to have the father’s name placed on the child’s birth certificate.
- Complete an affidavit of paternity any time between the birth of the child up until the child turns 18. If this document is not completed before the birth certificate is issued, and you want the father’s name listed on the birth certificate, you can apply to have the birth certificate altered to add the father’s name at a later date.
Establishing Paternity Without the Birth Father’s Cooperation
If the alleged father of your child does not voluntarily acknowledge your child as his own, and you wish to formally establish paternity, contact the local Florida Office of Child Support Enforcement. The process for establishing paternity in IV-D cases includes:
- Meeting with the mother to discuss the process for establishing paternity.
- Having the mother sign an affidavit indicating the identity of the alleged father.
- Locating the alleged father. This is done using resources provided by various governmental agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Social Security Administration (SSA), and the Department of Defense (DOD).
- Contacting the alleged father and give him a chance to voluntarily acknowledge paternity.
- Requesting that all parties – the alleged father, as well as the mother and child – submit to genetic testing. (Note that if the alleged father does not submit to genetic testing, he may be determined to be the child’s father by default.)
- Informing the alleged father of the paternity results.
- If test results indicate that the alleged father is the biological father the child, and he does not contest the results, those results will then be recognized as a conclusive determination of paternity after 60 days.
FLORIDA RESOURCE LINE
Note: The foregoing information is provided as general child support law guidelines in the state of Florida and should not be considered as legal advice specific to your case. After reviewing the above material, you will be presented with the opportunity to submit more details specific to your case directly to About The Children.
Submitted by Linda O’Marie, Paralegal
Call (800) 787-4981