Child custody can be an especially contentious issue in Florida
divorces and separations. In many cases, parents may threaten to pursue sole custody
of their children in order to gain the upper hand in negotiations. But
what exactly is “sole” or “full” custody, and
is it even possible in Florida?
In fact, the concept of “custody” is not even included in Florida
statutes. Instead, both parents have “time-sharing” with their children, also known as “parenting time.”
Parenting time encompasses both a parent’s right to develop a relationship
with their child and to ensure their welfare. What most parents desire
when they choose to pursue sole custody is to have exclusive physical
control of the child and the ability to make important decisions that
affect the child’s wellbeing without the other parent’s permission.
Achieving this, however, is much easier said than done.
Family courts in the state of Florida will almost never award a complete
“cutoff” of a parent’s right to see their child, spend
time with them, or make important decisions on their behalf. In general,
Florida courts operate under the assumption that a child requires the
presence of both parents in their life in order to grow in a healthy and
productive manner, and will oppose any efforts to restrict a parent’s rights.
Sole legal or physical custody is usually reserved for extreme cases involving
abuse or neglect by one parent. In these types of scenarios, the courts
may restrict the offending parent’s access to the child by:
- Denying visitation until further notice
- Allowing only supervised visitation
- Denying overnight visitation
- Implementing other measures to protect the child
In all custody-related cases, the court’s decisions will be based
on what it believes to be the best interests of the child, or what will
foster the child’s healthy development and happiness.
Is There Any Way to Approximate Sole Custody in Florida?
While true sole custody is highly unlikely, there are certain solutions
that one or both parties can implement in order to mimic sole custody.
As long as parents have valid, articulable reasons, they may negotiate
a parenting time agreement that gives one parent substantially more custody
rights than the other. While the courts may disregard this plan, they
are likely to accept it if it does not stray too far from court guiding
principles. A “poison pill,” or negative provision can be
built into the arrangement to penalize the parent with less custody in
the event that they should attempt to modify the plan at a later date.
Likewise, dependency court cases involving Child Protective Services (CPS)
can result in one parent receiving full custody. The decision to pursue
a dependency case must be considered very carefully, however, as these
cases can move very quickly and even require the parent who receives full
custody to cooperate with CPS.
Orlando Family Law Attorney – Call (407) 603-3460
If you are involved in a child custody battle or any other family law case
that requires powerful legal attention, contact R. Gregory Colvin, LLC
today. With more than 25 years of experience, our Orlando family lawyers
can provide the honest and effective counsel you need.
Discuss your legal options with us in detail during a
free initial consultation.