Fort Lauderdale Child Custody & Time-Sharing Lawyer
For more than 20 years, Vanessa L. Prieto Law Offices, LLC has helped parents throughout Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties navigate through the challenging child custody process. Our conscientious attorney uses her experience and knowledge of child custody issues to advise you accordingly. We provide compassionate counsel on child custody issues, and we always put the best interests of your children first, contact our Fort Lauderdale child custody lawyer today.
Basic facts that you should know about child custody in Florida
If you are proceeding with a divorce in Florida and have dependent children, you need to understand Florida child custody laws. The two custody areas are:
- Legal custody — A parent with legal custody can make important choices regarding the child’s education, religious instruction and medical care.
- Physical custody — A parent with physical custody has actual physical control of the child, or stated differently, where the child lives.
In Florida, the two custody types are:
- Joint custody — Under joint custody, parents share the legal and physical custody responsibilities.
- Sole custody — In a sole custody agreement, one parent assumes both legal and physical custody.
What are parenting plans and time-sharing agreements?
In Florida, a parenting plan is essentially another name for a custody agreement. Time-sharing is simply the term for shared joint custody in Florida. For a court to accept a parenting plan, it must include:
- Schedule detailing where and when the child spends time each day
- Description of how parental responsibilities are divided between the parties
- Description of how communication is facilitated between the child and each parent
- Details of which parent is responsible for healthcare, education and religious decisions
Working with an experienced Fort Lauderdale child custody lawyer in developing the parenting plan is extremely important because if you are unable to do so, the court must impose its judgment of your children’s best interests over your parental rights. You can draft a parenting plan from scratch with your lawyer or consider using one of the following custom forms that can help you meet your particular parenting goals:
- Long-distance parenting plan
- Safety-focused parenting plan
- Highly structured parenting plan
- Supreme court-approved parenting plan
How are parenting plans determined?
The overriding inquiry in determining a parenting plan is what is in the child’s best interest. The court can consider numerous factors including:
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable home
- Moral fitness of the parents
- Mental health of the parents
- Physical ability to care for a child
- School records
- Evidence of potential child abuse, including physical, mental and sexual abuse
Note that unlike in the past, courts do not automatically favor the mother. Traditionally, family courts tended to presume that giving primary custody rights of a child to the mother was in the best interests of the child. However, under the current law, courts must start with the presumption that relationships with both parents is in the best interests of the child and then consider the specific facts of a situation.
Fathers increasingly win joint or sole custody of their children. Our child custody lawyers represent the rights of both fathers and mothers seeking a favorable custody determination, so you should never hesitate to call our office today for assistance.
Child Custody and Visitation Enforcement
Just because a child custody order is issued by the courts does not mean that a parent will automatically abide by the ordered arrangement. In fact, many parents will choose to alter the custody schedule based on changes in their own schedules or due to the child’s activities. Unfortunately, unless both parents agree to the change, such alterations of the custody schedule are not allowed under Florida family laws. Another common situation occurs when the noncustodial parent fails to pay child support and the custodial parent decides to withhold visitation with the children until child support is paid. While it is unfair that the parent is not paying proper support, a parent does not have the legal authority to withhold visitation even under these circumstances.
The correct course of action if one parent refuses to obey the custody order and visitation schedule is to petition the court for enforcement of the court order. Courts have many ways of enforcing their judgments, including holding the parent in contempt of court. This means that if the parent continues to disobey the order, they could face additional penalties including fines, probation, or even time spent in jail. Taking matters into your own hands can only result in potential consequences for you and maybe even a modification of the custody arrangement.
If you believe that your child may be in danger or that the parent cannot care for the child, you should immediately discuss your situation with an experienced child custody lawyer who can help you take the necessary steps to protect your child. For example, if domestic abuse has occurred, we can help you obtain a protective order that will prevent the parent from seeing the child until the court can make a determination regarding what occurred. Also, if you believe that substance abuse or mental illness have become an issue, you can petition the court for a modification of the custody arrangement. Even though modifications can take time, you may request a temporary injunction to ensure the child is safe for the time being.
There are many ways that a court can take care of a child’s safety if one parent poses a potential threat or physical or emotional harm, including awarding sole custody, requiring that all visits must be supervised, or even ordering a mental evaluation or substance abuse testing for the parent. A skilled attorney can help you fight for a custody determination that will protect your child’s safety and well-being.
Talk to a Fort Lauderdale child custody lawyer today
Vanessa L. Prieto Law Offices, LLC helps you protect your parental rights so that you do not lose visitation or custody of your children. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, our office is close to Broward Hospital, north of Davie Boulevard, and just three blocks from the county courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale. For your free initial consultation, call us today at 954-800-2362 or contact us online. Our Fort Lauderdale child custody lawyer is available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and offer Saturday appointments upon request.