If you are going through a divorce and you and your spouse have children together, then you most likely have legitimate concerns about how child custody works. In the state of Florida, primary laws that govern how the courts determine custody arrangements falls under the Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Using this Act, the divorce courts try to determine a custody arrangement that is in the best interests of the child rather than either of the parents. This guide will help you understand the basics surrounding child custody and support in Florida.
Child Custody Basics
The Florida laws around child custody cover both legal custody and physical care of children whose parents are going through a divorce, and parents that never married during their relationship. A parent who has legal custody is granted the ability to make various decisions for their child, such as education, religion, health care, and discipline. Physical custody refers to the household in which the child will live.
When it comes to determining the legal and physical custody of any children, the courts will award either sole custody to one parent or joint custody between both. If sole custody is granted to one parent, they have full legal and physical custody so they can make all legal decisions for their child without any input from the other parent and the child will also reside with them full time.
However, if joint custody decided to best in the interest of the children, then both parents will share legal and physical custody. This means that both parents must approve all decisions for the children together. As for the living situation, one parent will be named the primary joint custodian and this parent will have the child in their household most of the time to provide more stability such as having a primary home, school, and doctor. The other parent will get visitation rights.
Part of all child custody decisions involve guidelines for determining child support payments that are necessary for raising a child. The financial situation of both parents, as well as the number of children are two main factors that are considered when determining payments of child support. After the initial child support payment situation is determined, it is by no means permanently fixed. There are several situations where the amount can be increased or decreased:
- If either parent has an increase or decrease in their income
- If the schooling situation for the child changes that increases or decreases the costs
- If the child has sudden medical bills or other payments that must be made and increases the cost of child care
Payments themselves can come in different forms. For instance, they can be sent from one parent’s account to the primary joint custodian parent’s, or put into a trust fund for things like education and other fixed costs for support.
Florida also has something called the Child Support Enforcement Program which helps to ensure that children actually get financial support from both parents. There are other programs in the state that are designed to automate the process to help avoid situations of forgetfulness or to spot neglected payments sooner.
Both parents are legally obligated to financially support their children until they complete high school or turn 19 years old. The courts have regulated child support and child custody to help protect the rights of the children first and foremost, and after that protect the rights of both parents as well. Even if your divorce is on good terms, you should still have a consultation with a child custody lawyer to make sure your rights are protected.