child custody servicesChild Custody/Parental Responsibility

In divorce cases involving minor children, the court deals with those issues first. It is the public policy of the state of Florida to ensure that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated or divorced, and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of childrearing. The father is given the same consideration as the mother in determining parental responsibility and timesharing regardless of the child's age or sex. This concept of shared parental responsibility has replaced the old traditional concepts of custody and visitation that were the prior law. In most cases, parental responsibility for a minor child will be shared by both parents so that each retains full parental rights and responsibilities with respect to their child. This requires both parents to confer so that major decisions affecting the welfare of the child will be determined jointly. You and your spouse may agree, or the court may order, that one parent have the ultimate responsibility over specific aspects of the child's welfare, such as education, religion, or medical and dental needs. If the parents have a substantial conflict over any of these areas, the court will decide on responsibility for them.

It is only in rare cases that the court can order sole parental responsibility and complete decision-making authority to one parent. To do so, the court must determine that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child. In determining parental responsibility, the court will approve or create a parenting plan that includes how the parents will share the daily tasks of child rearing, the timesharing schedule, and will specify how parental responsibility and decision making authority will be shared. The plan will also specify any technology that will be used for parent-child communication. The parents can agree on a parenting plan and submit it to the court for approval, or the court will determine these issues. The statute includes a list of factors tor the court to consider in making these decisions. In considering issues between parents and their children, the best interests of the child is the primary consideration of the courts. Florida law requires both parties to attend a parenting course prior to entering a final judgment of divorce.

Child Support

You and your spouse each have a responsibility to support your children in accordance with their needs and your financial abilities. Child support may be by direct payment or by indirect benefits, such as mortgage payments, insurance, or payment of medical and dental expenses. Ordinarily, the obligation to support your child ends when that child reaches the age of 18, marries, is emancipated, joins the armed forces or dies. Some of the issues concerning child support, which must be considered, include:

    A. The amount of support
    B. The method of payment
    C. The ways to assure payments are made
    D. When child support may be increased or decreased
    E. Who claims the dependency deduction for tax purposes

Other questions may need to be answered, depending on the circumstances of your case. Guidelines for the amount of support apply to all cases and are based on the income of the parents and the number of children with adjustments for substantial overnight contact, health insurance and childcare costs.


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