In Florida, the traditional term “custody” has been replaced with terms such as parental responsibility and time-sharing to better reflect the intentions of state lawmakers to create a system in which both parents are active in the child’s life and where the child has access to both parents. If you are planning to divorce and you have minor children in the home, a Miami child custody lawyer can help you develop a parenting plan that reflects the best interest of your child.
How Custody in Miami Is Handled
In most locations, custody refers to both the legal right of the parent to make decisions for their child — such as where they will attend school, which church they will attend, or the extra-curricular activities they participate in — as well as which parent the child primarily resides with. In Florida, legal custody is referred to as parental responsibility, and physical custody is referred to as time-sharing. The particulars of parental responsibility and time-sharing are spelled out in a parenting plan. If the parents who are divorcing do not develop this plan through mediation or an agreement, the court will develop the plan.
While the courts tend to favor equal parental responsibility and have been moving towards equal time-sharing, they will consider the unique circumstances of the child and both parents in order to determine the child’s best interests.
The Parenting Plan
A parenting plan is a document that is included in both temporary orders as well as the final divorce orders. This plan provides a clear outline of issues such as:
- A time-sharing schedule, including how holidays will be shared.
- How communication about the children will be handled between the parents.
- Provisions for extra-curricular activities.
- How decisions such as extracurriculars, medical or dental situations, and religious instructions will be shared.
- The particulars of transportation and child exchanges will work.
- How decisions about out-of-state or country travel will be handled.
Generally, if parents submit their plan to the judge together, the judge will agree to the provisions, provided the plan is complete and clear.
Modifying a Parenting Plan
Parenting plans often change as the child grows and their needs become different. If both parents agree to the changes in the parenting plan, the process of modifying the agreement often consists of submitting the changes along with a signed statement that both parents are in agreement. However, in some cases, a parent can request that the court modify the parenting plan for other reasons, such as:
- The belief that the child’s safety is at risk if the parenting plan continues.
- One parent has experienced a substantial change in circumstances that makes them unable to meet the parental responsibility and time-sharing obligations that they were granted through the original plan.
- There is a substantial benefit to be gained by the child from a modification in the agreement.
How a Lawyer Can Help with Miami Child Custody Matters
An experienced Miami child custody lawyer can work with parents who are mainly in agreement about parental responsibility and time-sharing to develop a parenting plan that is clear and complete. Additionally, if a parent is seeking full custody or wishes to modify a parenting plan against the other parent’s wishes, an attorney can provide guidance as to the types of evidence needed to prove cause for the modification. Other matters pertaining to parenting after a divorce can also be addressed with an experienced family lawyer, such as child support, maintenance, and matters involved in a high net worth divorce.