“How to get sole custody in Florida?” is a difficult question to ask because child custody, child support, and visitation rights are complex legal issues that the family court judge must resolve.
It can be a traumatic, costly, and intensely emotional experience when both parents fervently believe they are the better parent to have “custody” of their children.
Of course, the children are also greatly affected by this serious situation in addition to the parents. This guide will offer valuable insights and advice for seeking to get sole custody in the state of Florida.
How To Get Sole Custody in Florida
Hiring a family law attorney, gathering evidence, filing a petition, and presenting your case are some of the steps you need to take in order to get sole custody in Florida.
In Florida, sole custody is no longer an option i.e., the phrase “sole custody” is no longer used. However, the term “sole parental responsibility” is used to characterize a circumstance in which one parent wishes to retain all of the parental rights and obligations concerning their child.
When a parent has sole parental responsibility, that parent has all control over the child’s welfare. When making important life decisions that will impact the child, neither parent needs to consult the other. If you have a strong case for sole custody, you can take the following steps to increase the chances that the judge will accept your request:
– Select the County Where You Want a Divorce
You must select the proper county in Florida if you wish to be granted complete custody of your child. If you’re still married, you might choose to ask for full custody as part of the divorce settlement. In this situation, you must file your documents in the county where you and your spouse reside.
You must file the paperwork in one of the two counties you live if you and the other parent reside in different places. You may want to contact the court clerk for more details, as the document’s name may change based on the county in which you reside.
– Hire a Florida Family Law Attorney
You should never try to obtain sole custody without legal representation. A Miami divorce lawyer may assist you in developing your case for sole custody, compiling evidence, and arguing your position before the judge.
You should engage with a lawyer who knows how to address the other parent. You never know what will happen in a courtroom, even if you believe the evidence is on your side. That is why you ought to engage with a skilled lawyer.
– Gather Evidence
Before presenting your case in court, you must gather proof of the reasons for your demand for sole custody. This proof must be convincing and show that your spouse was abusive, neglected the child, or used to threaten the child.
– File a Petition
File the divorce petition after you have gathered evidence and have completed the necessary documentation. Despite the possibility of filing the petition electronically, it is typically preferable to engage with a divorce law expert who can assist you. It is advised to place your case in the best possible legal position to succeed by ensuring the paperwork is properly completed.
A lawyer may also be able to expedite the processing of your documents because they have ties with the local courthouse. The opposite party must be served with the petition after filing it. The document should be given to the opposing side so they can respond.
In order for your case to be heard, you will need to pay court fees, including the cost of hiring a process server. This indicates that a specified person will deliver the petition to the opposite party. In some circumstances, serving the documents to the other parent may fall under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff’s Office.
– Wait for Their Response
You must wait once the petition has been delivered. Within a predetermined time frame, the other parent must answer. This typically lasts for 20 days, though local customs may differ.
After that, examine the reply. In some circumstances, the other parent might object to having custody of the kids. The parent may also object to the motion in different cases. What happens next will depend on how the party reacts.
Once more, the other party’s response will determine what happens next. The process should move fairly fast if the other party does not object to the motion or if they agree that you should have complete custody. The case can go to trial if the other party contests the motion.
– Present Your Case
Keep your emotions in check as you make your case to the judge. It will only hurt your chances if you appear vengeful or out to get your spouse. If you have to testify, your Miami family law lawyer may speak on your behalf and make your case by demonstrating that you should have custody of your children and that contact with the other parent will be detrimental to the child’s emotional, mental, or physical health.
Depending on the specifics of your case, you may seek for sole custody (sole parental responsibility) in a variety of ways. Parental responsibility will be decided in the divorce proceedings if you’re married. You would file for divorce in the circuit court where the child resides if you are married and have not started the divorce process.
Factors That Affect Granting of Sole Custody
In situations where one parent has been found to be unfit, the court will order sole custody. This might be the situation if a parent has been found guilty of a third-degree felony or a more serious offence involving domestic violence. It might also be the case if a parent has shown themselves to be dangerously unreliable and careless, or if it has been established that they are alcoholics or regular drug users.
The court may declare one parent unfit and give the other parent sole custody if it is proved that the other parent is unsafe for the child to be around.
The parent requesting sole custody must demonstrate that drastically reducing the amount of time the other parent spends with the child is in the child’s best interests. In the past, mothers were given preference when it came to custody, especially when it came to cases involving younger children. Since mothers were thought to be the primary careers, it was thought that the kids should stay with their mothers. That is no longer the case, though.
When parents appear in court for a custody dispute, judges treat them equally in Florida. It is the responsibility of the parent who is claiming full custody of the children to demonstrate why full custody is in the children’s best interests.
– Drug Abuse and Alcohol Addiction
A parent has a strong chance of obtaining complete custody of a child if doing so will shield the children from a parent who is addicted to drugs. One who is addicted to drugs is frequently unable to care for themselves, much less another child adequately. Additionally, it is widely accepted by the courts that an addict should prioritise their own recovery before attempting to spend a significant amount of time with their children.
There are a few techniques to demonstrate drug or alcohol addiction or misuse. In a contentious child custody case, the parent with a good faith reason might first ask the court to order a hair follicle or urine test of the opposing parent. The divorce lawyer will schedule a hearing before the judge and submit a written motion noting the pertinent statute that permits this kind of relief.
In some situations where a guardian ad litem custody arrangement evaluator has been chosen to assist in deciding custody, the guardian can appear with the drug test and ask the non-custodial parent to submit. The parent is now in a difficult situation. The guardian custody evaluator will significantly influence the ultimate parenting arrangement for the children, despite the parent’s argument that privacy considerations should take precedence over the requirements for a drug test.
You could find it challenging to obtain sole custody if your partner has completed rehab and no longer exhibits any signs of drug or alcohol abuse.
– Domestic Violence
The most frequent justification for granting exclusive custody is domestic violence. The courts will view your spouse as an obvious threat to the child’s welfare if they have a history of violence (or a criminal past) and have harmed you or the child. You might be granted exclusive custody in certain situations.
Any child with abusive parents may have their timesharing cancelled or limited. Florida courts acknowledge domestic violence not just against the abused but frequently also against the abused children. If there is domestic abuse in a relationship between two parents and the children who were present or witnessed the abuse, the courts may limit joint legal custody.
In Florida, the courts will presume that a parent shouldn’t have any joint custody of the children if they are found guilty of domestic battery or other domestic crimes that are first-degree or higher offences. They will then require the parent who was found guilty to prove their case in order to overturn the presumption.
Since there is no scientific test to verify physical abuse, proving violence is a problem in the case that necessitates timesharing restrictions is a little harder than proving drug abuse situations. Physical abuse is instead frequently established by the statement of the victimised spouse, any witnesses who may have been there, and corroborating evidence such as photos of bruises and other injuries.
You can be given sole custody if the child has been neglected in a blatant way. You must present proof that the other parent neglected to give your child food, water, medical attention, or adequate supervision while they were in their care.
– Parent’s Mental Health
Some mental conditions may compel the courts to give one parent sole custody, particularly if they endanger the child’s safety.
For instance, if a parent has schizophrenia, a severe case of depression, or any other condition that makes it impossible for them to care for themselves, much less another child. In these situations, the divorce is frequently made possible by that parent’s mental health concerns, with the parent typically filing for divorce in part to shield the kids from the other parent. Priority is frequently given to these situations because of the possibility that one parent may hurt the child or flee with them.
When it is required, the court may disregard any objections and order the release of a parent’s mental health documents in a contested case. In some situations, it may be possible to employ the services of a qualified child custody evaluator to conduct psychological tests on both parties involved in a contentious custody dispute.
In Florida, mental health specialists with experience conducting psychological testing who are highly trained and competent are frequently used as child custody evaluators. In some circumstances, a party may approach the court and request a court order compelling the other party to submit to psychological testing in front of a qualified assessor due to concerns about that party’s mental health.
Florida Parenting Plan
Parenting plans will be issued by the court in Florida custody and divorce cases involving small children. The parenting schedule lays out how the parents will divide up the duties and decision-making power for the kids. The plan must at the very least specify how the parents will split up and take responsibility for the child.
The plan should also state how much time the kids will spend with each parent, and who will be in charge of the child’s health care, academic issues, and extracurricular activities. Both parents must abide by the plan once the court has approved it. However, Florida’s Child Custody Law allows permit changes to parenting schedules.
The plan must be changed if there is a significant, unexpected change in circumstances. The proposed adjustments must also be in the best interests of the child. In the absence of qualified legal assistance, it may be challenging to establish that the change is unanticipated and significant.
– Physical vs Legal Custody
The judge can give one parent sole custody of a kid or divide custody equally when deciding who will be the child’s primary caregiver. The judge may also let the other parent create a reasonable visiting plan if, for instance, it was determined that sole custody would better serve the child’s best interests.
The majority of the time, however, the court will decide in favor of a shared custody arrangement, unless there is a good cause to believe that the kid would be safer and/or better-taken care of if only one parent had custody.
Are Lawyers Required in the Custody Process?
No, you don’t need to hire a lawyer (sole or shared parental responsibility) to file for custody. However, it is simpler for you to compile and present the evidence you’ll need to persuade the judge of your position on what the parenting plan and time-sharing schedule should be with the aid of a lawyer.
Alternatives to Sole Custody
It will be more challenging for you to argue your case if the counsel represents the opposing parent. Aside from that, there might be many reasons which can create difficulty in filing for sole custody, so here are the alternatives you could go for:
– Mutual Parenting Plan
Parents can, within reason, agree on a parenting schedule that comes close to the idea of sole custody while staying within the bounds of what the court has ordered. In general, even if a parenting plan is a little unorthodox, a family law court will approve it.
A decent parenting agreement should contain the legal equivalent of a “poison pill” that would go off if the other parent later reopened the case to change their restricted parental rights. In other words, if the parents decide to change the parenting plan later, you must have the supporting documentation to provide to the courts. There are numerous legitimate, practical ways to do this.
– Dependency Courts
A separate legal procedure called Dependency Court has its own distinct court. Every country in Florida has a dependency court. When children are taken away from parents who have abused, neglected, or abandoned their children, custody disputes are decided in this court. Child Protective Services are usually involved.
In cases involving a child’s safety, dependency courts act swiftly to remove the child and meticulously return it to the parent. Before even extended visits with your child may continue, parents typically have to comply with completing a case plan that involves various classes and criteria.
Even though “sole custody” is not mentioned in the Florida legislation that governs dependency court, the idea is nonetheless prevalent and in practice. The idea of sole custody, in which the other parent is completely shut off, is often most prevalent in dependency courts, which frequently award sole custody.
Before they involve themselves in the dependency court system, parents should exercise caution. The courts give parents who appear in dependency court free legal representation, but these lawyers are overworked and underpaid. Additionally, the courts have very limited information at their disposal and can make harsh conclusions regarding the children. The wisest course of action is always to hire a private custody attorney when a child’s safety is at risk.
– Terminate Other Parent’s Parental Rights
You could ask for the other parent’s parental rights to be terminated. This takes a year or more to complete is exceedingly difficult, and can only be done in dependency court. Normally, a family law court won’t remove a parent’s parental rights. In most cases, a parent cannot agree to the termination of their rights unless there is a step-parent adoption, and even then, it can be challenging because you need to establish either abandonment or potential harm to the kid. It is quite tough if the other parent doesn’t approve or consent.
Additionally, we frequently receive inquiries from fathers who want to revoke their parental rights because the mother refuses to allow them to see the child and/or they refuse to pay child support.
Unless there is a person ready to adopt the child at the same time, a court will not simply terminate a parent’s rights. The Florida courts have integrated the two processes. However, because many lawsuits require a lot of documentation, it is advisable to have an experienced attorney draught the papers and represent you in court.
The judge in a Florida divorce or child custody case will take the children’s best interests into consideration when determining time-sharing schedule by the parents. When making custody decisions, mothers or fathers are not given any preference under Florida child custody laws, the custody rights will be determined by the unique circumstances and facts of every case instead.
- When one parent is given the responsibility to care for and make choices on behalf of the child, this is known as sole custody or sole parental responsibility.
- The mental health records of both parents are used as evidence in cases to prove sole custody in front of the judge.
- There are four other kinds of custody that could be granted, including sole physical custody, joint physical custody, joint legal custody, and sole legal custody.
- You should seek the help of a lawyer if you believe it will be in your kid’s best interests to alter or make a parenting plan.
- There is no universal parenting schedule that applies to all Florida custody disputes. Instead, the terminology will change depending on each case’s particulars. The Court will make an effort to establish a timetable that is in the children’s best interests.
In Florida, obtaining sole custody of a kid can be challenging. If you are attempting to do so, you should first discuss your alternatives with a Florida law expert. You’ll have to prove that you have a good reason to be given sole custody, and this article could correctly guide you in this respect.
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