What Is Child Custody in Orlando?

April 23, 2024 | By Resolute Divorce Law
What Is Child Custody in Orlando?
child custody lawyer in Orlando, Florida

When parents decide to separate or divorce in Orlando, one of the biggest issues they face is determining child custody arrangements. (Florida law refers to it as time-sharing.)

A child custody lawyer in Orlando, Florida refers to the rights and responsibilities of parents regarding their children after a separation or divorce. Your divorce lawyer can explain this complex and emotional topic and how the law can ensure the well-being of your kids.

Types of Child Custody in Florida

In Florida, there are two main types of child custody: legal custody and physical custody.

Legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions about your child's life, such as decisions regarding education, healthcare, and religion.

There are two forms of legal custody:

  1. Sole Legal Custody: One parent has the exclusive right to make major decisions for the child.
  2. Shared Legal Custody: Both parents share the right to make major decisions for the child.

Physical Custody

Physical custody determines where the child will live and how much time they will spend with each parent.

The options for physical custody are:

  1. Sole Physical Custody: The child lives primarily with one parent, while the other parent may have visitation rights.
  2. Shared or Joint Physical Custody: The child splits their time living with both parents, usually close to an equal amount of time with each.

Determining Child Custody in Orlando

In Orlando, like the rest of Florida, the court primarily concerns itself with the best interests of the child. To make this decision, the judge will consider:

The Ability of Each Parent to Provide a Stable, Loving Environment for the Child

The court's primary concern is ensuring that the child has a safe, nurturing, and stable home environment.

Judges will assess each parent's ability to provide this, considering:

  • Their living situation
  • Financial stability
  • Support system
  • Overall parenting skills

In custody decisions, a judge may favor a parent who can offer a consistent routine, meet the child's basic needs, and provide a loving and attentive household.

The Child's Preference, if They Are Mature Enough to Express It Reasonably

In Florida, the court may consider the child's preference regarding custody if the child is of sufficient age and maturity to express a reasonable preference.

The weight given to the child's preference will depend on:

  • Their age
  • Level of understanding
  • The rationale behind their choice

The court aims to balance the child's wishes with an objective assessment of their best interests.

The Mental and Physical Health of Each Parent

The mental and physical health of both parents is an important factor in custody determinations. A parent struggling with severe mental health issues, substance abuse problems, or physical disabilities that impair their ability to care for the child may face limitations in custody or visitation rights.

The court will evaluate each parent's overall fitness and capacity to meet the child's needs.

The Relationship Between the Child and Each Parent

Relationship Between the Child and Each Parent

The court will look at the quality of the relationship between the child and each parent, including:

  • The emotional bond
  • The level of involvement in the child's life
  • The parent's ability to prioritize the child's well-being

A strong, healthy relationship with a parent can weigh in favor of granting that parent more custodial time or decision-making authority.

Any History of Domestic Violence or Substance Abuse

The court takes any history of domestic violence or substance abuse very seriously when determining custody.

Violence or substance abuse issues that put the child's safety or well-being at risk can severely reduce a parent's chances of obtaining custody or unsupervised visitation. The court's priority is to protect the child from potential harm or exposure to these harmful environments.

The Ability of Each Parent to Facilitate a Close and Continuing Relationship With the Other Parent

The court recognizes the importance of a child maintaining a close and continuing relationship with both parents when possible. As such, the court will evaluate each parent's willingness and ability to facilitate and encourage the child's relationship with the other parent.

A parent who is more likely to support frequent and continuing contact with the other parent may be viewed more favorably in custody decisions.

The Geographical Location of Each Parent's Residence and the Impact on the Child's Routine

The proximity of each parent's residence and the potential impact on the child's routine is another factor the court considers.

If one parent lives a significant distance away, it may disrupt the child's ability to:

  • Maintain their regular schedule
  • Attend the same school
  • Participate in extracurricular activities

The court aims to minimize disruptions to the child's life and may favor the parent whose location better supports the child's existing routine and stability.

The court may also consider other relevant factors on a case-by-case basis.

Modifying Child Custody Orders

Child custody orders are not set in stone. As circumstances change, parents may need to modify the custody arrangement. Some common reasons for modifying a custody order include:

A Significant Change in the Child's or Either Parent's Living Situation

A major change in living circumstances for either the child or a parent can be grounds for modifying a custody order.

This could include:

  • A parent losing their job or home
  • A child being exposed to an unsafe environment
  • A parent developing a serious illness or disability that impacts their ability to care for the child

The court will consider whether the change in living situation is substantial enough to warrant a custody modification in the child's best interests.

A Parent's Relocation to a Different City or State

If one parent decides to move a significant distance away, changes to the existing custody arrangement may be necessary.

The court will evaluate:

  • The reason for the move
  • The impact on the child's relationship with the other parent
  • The ability to maintain the current visitation schedule

In some cases, the court may transfer primary custody to the parent remaining in the same location to minimize disruption to the child's life.

A Parent's Remarriage or New Relationship That Could Affect the Child's Well-being

When a parent enters into a new marriage or committed relationship, it can introduce changes to the child's living environment and family dynamics. The court may modify custody if it hears concerns about the new partner's suitability or ability to provide a stable, nurturing environment for the child. 

It will evaluate the presence of additional children in the new relationship, living conditions, and the child's adjustment to the new family situation.

A Change in Either Parent's Ability to Care for the Child Due to Employment, Health, or Other Reasons

If a parent's circumstances change in a way that affects their ability to properly care for the child, the court may modify custody accordingly.

This could include a parent:

  • Taking on a job with demanding travel or irregular hours
  • Developing a physical or mental health issue that affects their caregiving capabilities
  • Encountering other significant life changes that make it difficult to meet the child's needs under the current arrangement

The Child's Changing Needs or Preferences as They Grow Older

As children grow and mature, their needs and preferences may shift, requiring adjustments to the custody order.

For example, an older child may express a strong desire to live primarily with one parent, or a child's extracurricular activities or academic demands may require a different schedule. The court will consider the child's age, maturity level, and the reasonableness of their preferences when determining if a custody modification is warranted.

To modify a child custody order in Orlando, you'll need to file a petition with the court and demonstrate that a substantial change in circumstances warrants a modification in the best interests of the child.

Co-Parenting and Communication

Co-parenting and maintaining open communication after a separation or divorce can be challenging, especially if the relationship between the parents is strained. 

However, effective co-parenting and consistent communication are crucial for minimizing conflict and ensuring the child's well-being. Even if tensions exist between the parents, they must find a way to set aside personal differences and prioritize the needs of their child.

One helpful strategy for successful co-parenting is to establish clear channels of communication and utilize tools to facilitate the sharing of important information. 

Co-parenting apps and online calendars can be resources for coordinating schedules, sharing updates about the child's activities, and documenting communication between the parents.

These digital platforms provide a centralized location for organizing information and can help reduce misunderstandings or missed appointments.

In addition to utilizing technology, it may be beneficial for co-parents to establish ground rules for communication. This could include agreeing on preferred methods of contact (e.g., email, text, or phone calls), setting boundaries on appropriate topics for discussion, and committing to respectful and constructive dialogue. 

Establishing these guidelines can help ensure that communication remains focused on the child's needs and avoids unnecessary conflicts or personal attacks.

It's also important for co-parents to remain mindful of their actions and language, especially in front of their children

 Children are perceptive. They can easily pick up on tensions or negativity between their parents. Co-parents should strive to present a united front and avoid speaking negatively about the other parent in the presence of the child.

Child Support and Child Custody

Child Support and Child Custody

Child support and child custody are separate but interconnected legal issues in Orlando and throughout Florida.

While custody arrangements determine where the child will reside and how time is divided between parents, child support is a distinct obligation that aims to ensure both parents contribute financially to the upbringing and care of their children.

In Orlando, as in the rest of the state, both parents are generally expected to provide financial support for their children, regardless of the specific custody arrangement in place. This obligation exists whether the parents have sole or joint custody or if one parent has primary physical custody while the other has visitation rights.

The amount of child support owed by each parent is determined by the Florida Child Support Guidelines, a set of statutory guidelines that take into account various factors to calculate an appropriate and fair support amount.

These factors include:

  • The income of both parents
  • The number of children involved
  • The amount of time each parent spends with the children
  • Any additional relevant circumstances, such as childcare expenses or the child's specific needs

The guidelines are designed to ensure that children receive a consistent and adequate level of financial support from both parents, proportionate to their respective incomes and the amount of time they spend with the children.

The goal is to maintain a similar standard of living for the children as they would have experienced if their parents remained together.

Child support obligations are separate from custody arrangements and can be modified if there are significant changes in either parent's financial circumstances or the child's needs.

For example, if a parent experiences a substantial increase or decrease in income or if the custody arrangement changes significantly, either parent may petition the court to modify the child support order accordingly.

While the calculation of child support is based on specific guidelines, the court retains the discretion to deviate from the guidelines in certain circumstances, such as when a child has exceptional medical or educational needs or when applying the guidelines would result in an unjust or inappropriate support amount.

Antonio-G-Jimenez Attorney

Child custody cases can be difficult and emotionally charged. It's best to have a skilled and experienced family law attorney by your side to protect your rights and ensure the best interests of your children are served.

An Orlando child custody lawyer can advise you on the laws and procedures specific to your case, negotiate with the other parent's attorney, and represent you in court if necessary. A lawyer can also help you navigate issues related to child support, visitation, and modifications to custody orders.

If you face a child custody dispute in Orlando, don't hesitate to seek legal assistance. Contact a reputable family law attorney in your area to protect your rights and your children's best interests throughout the process.