Divorce can be a brutal experience for some couples, but having children involved can mean that they often take the brunt of the blow. While mom and dad will adjust to living apart once again, the children must often get used to having two homes, in many cases, on top of dealing with the trauma of their parents separating. But how is it decided which parent the child lives with the majority of the time? Allow us to offer a bit of clarity by taking a look at some of Florida’s child custody laws.

Terminology 

Here are some basic terms that any child custody case would use:

  • Legal custody- may be awarded to one parent or jointly to both parents where whoever has legal custody makes decisions regarding the well being of the child and how they are raised. 
  • Physical custody- this determines where the child lives. Joint custody cases usually have the child alternating holidays as well as weeks/weekends according to the judge’s decision.
  • Joint custody- when the child divides their time between both parents’ homes. 
  • Sole custody- when one parent has full custody of their child. There have been more cases when one parent is awarded sole physical custody, but both parents have joint legal custody. 

What is the judge looking for?

Each custody case is different and there is no cookie-cutter recipe that depicts who is awarded custody of their child/children. The judge presiding over your case will be looking for some tell-tale particulars that will help her/him determine which parent is awarded what level of custody, if at all. Generally, the court will decide what decision is in the child’s best interest. Attention is given to the following items in each custody case:

  • History of abuse from either parent
  • How old the child is and their sex
  • Potential relocation if awarded to one parent or another
  • If the child has extended family close by to provide opportunity for interaction
  • Parental drug or alcohol use 
  • Physical and mental health of parents
  • Stability of the home environment and necessity for that to continue
  • Whether or not the child will have to adjust to a new school/community
  • Religion and culture of each parent taken into consideration

These items will help depict who gets awarded what custody and how much. Some cases may be split down the middle or only awarded to one parent, while other cases may have physical custody with one parent and joint legal custody between both. Florida has also recently given fathers just as much pull as mothers as far as custody rights are concerned. Don’t assume you don’t have rights just because you’re not the child’s mother. Do your research, know your rights and call your lawyer to help you get the custody your children deserve. 

The Holman Law Firm is committed to providing the best legal service in Pensacola, Destin, Pace and Cantonment, FL, in a variety of legal areas including Family Law and Personal Injury. We specialize in Fathers’ Rights and will be there every step of the way to fight for your rights. Contact us now for a free consultation at 850-435-6909 or go online at www.holmanfirm.com.