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Understanding Parents' Rights in West Palm Beach

Legal Support for Families in Palm Beach County and Surrounding Areas

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.

Our team at Sasser, Cestero & Roy, P.A. are here to help you. Contact us online or call us at (561) 693-1241.

Exploring Child Custody Arrangements 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.

How to File for Child Custody

In Florida, the legal process for filing for time-sharing and parental responsibility typically involves several steps. Here's a general overview:

  1. Filing a Petition: The process typically begins with filing a petition for time-sharing and parental responsibility with the appropriate family court. This petition outlines the parent's desired time-sharing schedule and parental responsibility arrangement.
  2. Serving the Other Parent: After filing the petition, the other parent must be served with a copy of the petition and a summons. This can be done through personal service by a process server or sheriff, or sometimes by certified mail with return receipt requested.
  3. Response: The other parent has a certain amount of time to respond to the petition once served. They may file an answer to the petition, in which they can either agree or disagree with the requests made by the petitioner.
  4. Mediation: In many Florida counties, mediation is required before a custody case can proceed to trial. Mediation involves both parents meeting with a neutral third-party mediator to try to reach an agreement on time-sharing and parental responsibility. If an agreement is reached, it can be submitted to the court for approval.
  5. Temporary Orders: If necessary, either parent can request temporary orders regarding time-sharing and parental responsibility while the case is ongoing. This can help establish a temporary arrangement until a final decision is made by the court.
  6. Discovery: Discovery is the process by which both parties exchange relevant information and evidence related to the case, such as financial records, parenting schedules, and witness statements.
  7. Trial: If the parents are unable to reach an agreement through mediation or negotiation, the case will proceed to trial. At trial, both parties will present evidence and testimony, and a judge will make a decision regarding time-sharing and parental responsibility based on the best interests of the child.
  8. Final Order: Once a decision is made by the court, a final order outlining the time-sharing schedule and parental responsibility arrangement will be issued. This order is legally binding and must be followed by both parents.

How to Modify Child Custody in West Palm Beach

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.

Need to Discuss Child Custody? Schedule a Consultation Now! Contact us online or call us at (561) 693-1241. Hablamos español.


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