West Palm Beach Child Custody Lawyers
Supporting Families in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie & Indian River Counties
In Florida, child custody, also known as parental responsibility, can be resolved by the parents or taken to court to be established by a judge. Both parents have equal rights to custody of their child and can modify an existing order under certain circumstances.
With over three decades of experience helping parents establish, modify, and/or enforce child custody orders, our attorneys can help you create a child custody agreement that best suits you and your family’s needs and lifestyle.
Types of Child Custody in Florida
Florida has 4 different types of child custody arrangements:
- Physical Custody: Physical custody denotes with whom a child will live with and spend most of his/her time with. Parents can share physical custody in Florida.
- Legal Custody: Legal custody gives one or both parents the right to make decisions about key aspects of the child’s life, such as the child’s education, religious influence, and medical care.
- Sole Custody: A parent can be awarded sole physical custody, sole legal custody, or both. In this arrangement, only one parent has the right to make decisions regarding the child’s residence and/or welfare, depending on the arrangement.
- Joint Custody: Under this arrangement, both parents are granted either physical custody, legal custody, or both and share equal decision-making responsibilities.
How is Child Custody Determined in Florida?
The best interests of the child are paramount to any child custody decision in Florida. Additional factors that the court considers are as follows:
- Each parent’s ability to meet the child’s needs
- Each parent’s ability to provide a safe, stable, and nurturing environment for the child
- Each parent’s age and physical and mental health
- Each parent’s willingness to nurture a relationship between the child and the other parent
- The preferences of the child (if of sufficient age)
- The child’s age, needs, and/or ability
- Any history of domestic abuse and/or violence
- The geographic location of each parent’s residence (pertains to the accessibility of visitation and time-sharing)
Both parents must abide by the custody order until the child turns 18 or it is modified.
Is Florida a Mother's State?
Yes, the law in Florida states that a mother automatically has sole legal custody rights over the child from birth, whether married or single. However, this could change once the father provides a paternity test to determine his legal rights for the child.
Child Custody Modification Florida
The Florida court system understands that life circumstances change. As such, either parent has the right to petition to modify an existing child custody arrangement. Florida law forbids granting a modification because one parent is dissatisfied with the arrangement, but the state will allow modifications in the event:
- Both parents agree to a modification: If a modification is not contested, each spouse can work with their attorney to draft a new parenting plan, which will then be sent to the judge for approval.
- A substantial change in circumstances has occurred: Defined as a disease, disability, development of an addiction, and/or a major shift in a spouse’s life, such as relocating, under these circumstances it would be more difficult to parent a child. As such, a child may be negatively impacted by the new circumstances and a modification can be made to remedy this.
- A protective order has been issued: If one parent was violent or abusive and you had to call the police or file a petition for a protective order, you may be granted emergency relief in the form of sole custody temporarily.
The parent who files a custody modification must prove that such a change would be in the child’s best interests.