Tampa Child Custody Lawyers
Helping You Do What's Best for Your Child
There's a lot at stake during custody battles. How you choose to handle your custody dispute can affect your relationship with your co-parent and child for years, which can make navigating a custody case daunting.
At K. Dean Kantaras, P.A., our Tampa child custody attorneys can help you pursue an outcome in your custody case that enables your child to thrive and helps you maintain close contact with them.
To schedule a consultation with our team, contact us online or via phone at (727) 939-6113.
Terms You Need to Know During a Custody Dispute
Before we cover how Florida courts handle child custody, let's go over some terms you should know. Florida courts prefer to use alternative terms during custody battles that emphasize the parents' shared responsibility to do what's best for their child. As a result, certain terms, like "custody" or "custodial/noncustodial parent" may or may not make an appearance in your custody case (depending on the judge presiding over your case).
You should familiarize yourself with the following terms:
- Sole parental responsibility. When a parent has sole parental responsibility, the child lives with them all the time, and that parent is responsible for caring for the child. "Sole custody" is another phrase for this arrangement.
- Shared parental responsibility. In a shared parental responsibility arrangement, both parents have custody and work together to help their child thrive. They may take turns housing the child. Traditionally, shared parental responsibility can also be called "joint-custody."
- Majority timesharing. In a majority timesharing arrangement, one parent houses the child a majority (51%+) of the time. More traditionally, the parent with majority timesharing may be called the "custodial" parent. The other parent, who houses the child a minority of the time, may be called the "noncustodial" parent.
- Equal timesharing. In an equal timesharing arrangement, the parents house the child for an equal amount of time.
How Does Child Custody Work in FL?
By default, Florida courts assume that both parents should be involved in their child's life. For this reason, courts tend to prefer shared parental responsibility to sole parental responsibility.
However, the court may determine that one parent is unfit to act as a caregiver. A parent may be unfit if they:
- Have a record of domestic violence;
- Have a record of acting cruelly towards or neglecting the child;
- Abuse alcohol or other substances;
- Have a mental or physical condition that prevents them from caring for the child;
- Don't have a safe home.
These are just some of the factors courts consider when determining whether a parent is unfit to act as a caregiver. If one parent is unfit, the court may award the other parent sole parental responsibility to help them care for the child.
In any custody case, the court's primary goal is pursuing the child's best interests. To that end, the court weighs the following factors during custody cases, among others:
- The physical and mental health of both parents;
- How the parents interacted with each other and the child prior to the custody case;
- The work and home lives of both parents;
- How the custody case may affect the community the child lives or goes to school in;
- The preferences of the child, depending on their age (the older the child, the more heavily the court weighs their opinion);
- How much each parent knows about the child;
- How each parent disciplined the child prior to the custody case;
- How each parent plans to help the child pursue their best interests.
If the parents agree on how to handle custody and want to resolve the custody battle amicably, they can present a joint parenting plan to the court. The parenting plan lays out terms for the timeshare and visitation arrangement, including:
- Where the child will live a majority of the time;
- How the parents plan to share custody on a weekly basis;
- How the parents plan to handle special events like holidays and vacations;
- How the parents intend to preserve the child's best interests post-custody battle;
- Boundaries the parents will share for parenting the child;
- Disciplinary tactics the parents agree to use;
- How to handle expenses like health care and dental expenses;
- How to handle the child's educational, cultural, and religious experiences;
- Any other stipulations the parents feel are important (like whether they can disparage one another in front of the child, for example).
Typically, courts approve of joint parenting plans fairly quickly.
However, if you and your co-parent cannot agree on a custody arrangement, you will each need to present your own parenting plan to the court. The court will then examine each parenting plan and use that information to develop a parenting plan the court deems equitable for both parents and is in the best interest of the child(ren).
As mentioned earlier, courts prefer it when parents can compromise on a joint parenting plan. To that end, courts may try and use a method of alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, to help parents reach an agreement before continuing the custody battle in court.
If you're navigating a child custody arrangement, having a capable custody attorney by your side is vital. At K. Dean Kantaras, P.A., our Tampa child custody lawyers can help you draft a comprehensive parenting plan that increases your chances of receiving a favorable outcome in your custody case.
To schedule a consultation with our team and learn more about how we can help you protect your parental rights and do what's best for your child, contact us online or via phone at (727) 939-6113.
Several Decades of Experience on Your Side
Top Rating for Ethics & Skill of AV Preeminent®
Board Certified Specialist in Family Law
Selection for Florida Super Lawyers® - Top 5%