Child Custody and Child-Related Issues
Henderson Franklin’s marital and family law attorneys help families with child custody and other child-related issues that arise during a divorce. These issues include developing a parenting plan and timesharing schedule that works best for parents and their children and determining the appropriate amount of child support. In some cases, there may be substance abuse issues with one of the parents that require professional mental health evaluations and safety plans for children. In other situations, a parent may seek to move to a different geographic area, and our attorneys have experience handling relocation trials.
We strive to help our clients minimize the unintended emotional damage to children and families that often occurs in these delicate child-related matters. We encourage settlement through mediation or other alternative dispute resolution where possible, including the use of mental health experts to intervene in some situations. There are always times when litigation is required, and in those situations, you can be confident knowing that our experienced attorneys zealously represent our clients to make sure their voices are heard and their children are protected. Our goal is to help clients maintain healthy relationships with their children both during and after the divorce process.
Understanding Child Custody Cases
Courts will enter a parenting plan that is in the children’s best interests by evaluating several key factors. In Florida, parental responsibility for minor children is to be shared by the parents unless a specific finding is made that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the children. It is the public policy in the State of Florida that the children should have frequent and continuing contact with both parents following a divorce. There is no presumption that children should spend more time with their mother or their father after the divorce.
The list of criteria considered by courts in determining the appropriate parenting and time-sharing plan for families are set forth in Florida Statutes Sec. 61.13. Some of the key factors are:
- A parent’s capacity and disposition to facilitate and encourage a close relationship between the other parent and the children
- Whether a parent will delegate his or her parenting responsibilities to a third party after the divorce
- A parent’s capacity to determine and consider the needs of the children rather than the parent’s desires
- How long the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity
- Each parent's physical and mental health
- The stability of each home
- The geographic viability of a plan
- Any history of domestic violence in a home
In evaluating and identifying our clients’ strengths in each of these areas, our family law attorneys help our clients focus on the importance of these factors and abilities.
Parenting Plans and Time-Sharing Schedules
In divorce and paternity cases, courts require that parents enter written parenting plans. The written plans must include the following:
- A detailed description of how the parents will share responsibility for daily tasks associated with the children’s upbringing
- A specific time-sharing schedule detailing when the children will spend time with each parent
- A designation as to which parent will be responsible for all forms of health care
- A provision that either parent may consent to mental health treatment for the children
- A designation as to which parent will be responsible for school-related matters
- Which parent’s address will be used for school-boundary determination
- A description of methods and technologies the parents will use to communicate with the children
Our marital and family law attorneys handle child support issues that arise in divorce and paternity cases involving minor and dependent adult children. Florida has a statutory system for determining the appropriate amount of child support, which depends upon how many children there are, how many overnights the children spend with each parent and each parent’s net income. All child support orders must also include a provision for health insurance for minor children when the cost is reasonable and accessible. The cost of child support is factored in when calculating the appropriate amount of child support. It is also necessary to apportion any non-covered medical, dental and prescription medication expenses of children to both parents.
Modifications and Enforcement Actions
There are times when child support and parenting plans need to be modified. While it is our goal to design an initial plan that works well for our clients long-term, our attorneys are available to discuss a modification of the parenting plan or amount of child support being paid when a substantial change in circumstances has arisen. Our lawyers frequently handle modification (or post-judgment) actions and represent our clients in dealing with post-divorce issues of support, timesharing, and relocation. We can also assist our clients with enforcement of previous agreements and orders of the court.
Our child support and custody attorneys routinely handle adoption matters, including step-parent and family adoptions, and we are available to assist with the termination of parental rights and adoption of minor children. We help our clients understand the rights and responsibilities of adoption under Florida law to ensure this emotional process is carried out under the best possible circumstances.