Going through a divorce is never easy, especially when children are involved. It's an emotionally-charged situation that can be difficult for everyone involved. This is especially the case when you have to determine child custody, as well. Understanding Florida's custody laws and the options available can be beneficial for you, your former spouse, and your kids.
How is Custody Decided?
In Florida, there are two aspects of child custody - legal and physical. Legal custody states which parent is responsible for making decisions about the children's education, medical issues, and wellbeing. On the other hand, physical custody refers to where the child resides.
The number one priority for the court is that the custody agreement is in the child's best interest. Generally, this means the child should have the opportunity to spend time with and keep a relationship with both of their parents. Therefore, a common agreement is for both parents to have joint legal custody. One parent will have sole physical custody, and the other parent will be allowed visitation time.
However, in some cases, the court may call for joint legal and physical custody. In other situations, the court will grant sole physical and legal custody to one parent. This is only done when it would be detrimental or harmful for the child to interact and see their other parent.
The court typically prefers when parents decide custody on their own, as it shows their willingness to work together for their child's best interest. If parents cannot agree on custody, they will have to let the court make the decision.
Why Choose Mediation for Establishing Child Custody?
Generally, the court encourages parents to create their custody agreement without getting the court involved. It may be difficult for ex-spouses to agree on custody issues, but there are options. One way parents can establish child custody is by going through mediation.
Mediation can be an excellent way for parents to establish child custody due to a few reasons. First, it is a faster process that can make things easier for everyone involved. You and your ex-spouse can each go into child custody mediation with the help of a family law attorney and a child custody attorney who serves as the mediator for the proceedings. Mediation is also much cheaper and allows you to avoid a long, stressful battle over custody of your children.
Additionally, mediation offers the following benefits:
Both parties agree to compromise and reach a resolution of their issues
The parties can have a civil debate instead of a bitter, angry fight
Both parties acknowledge one another's wishes and needs and get the chance to be heard
How Does the Mediation Process Work?
If you choose to go through the mediation process to establish child custody, you need to know what to expect. A Bartow family law attorney can help you determine whether it's the right course of action to take in your custody case. During the process, a neutral third party will meet with you and your ex to resolve any issues there are about time-sharing and visitation plans.
In Florida, the mediation process that takes place specifically to establish child custody involves a mediator known as a parenting coordinator. The mediator focuses on the child and their best interests. They will help resolve any issues between the parents involving guidance, education, and any other concerns. During a mediation session, you can expect questions such as the following to be addressed:
What arrangements and schedule does each parent want?
How much money will one parent receive in child support?
Who will pay for the child's education, medical bills, and more?
How much health and life insurance will be provided to the child by either or both parents?
What if Neither Parent Agrees?
If neither party can agree on their own, the court will determine custody based on what is in the child's best interests. The court will consider several factors. These might include each parent's economic situation, financial stability, their caretaking ability, how available they are to care for their child, and where they reside.
Again, it's important to remember that, first and foremost, the best interests of the child are always the first consideration when determining child custody. As a result, custody arrangements that best suit the child's needs are the ones that will ultimately be enforced.
Do You Need a Child Custody Lawyer?
If you need assistance with a child custody matter, contact Advocate Law Firm, P.A. to speak with a family law attorney. Our Bartow child custody attorney can help you determine the best arrangement that will protect the interests of you and your child.
Call us today at (863) 644-5566 to set up a consultation regarding your custody case.