The state of Florida has a public policy to assure that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after a separation or divorce. The state also encourages parents to share in the rights and responsibilities of child rearing. The primary consideration the court makes when awarding a custody, or as it is now referred to in Florida" time sharing" is the "best interests of the child". This standard involves consideration of many different factors including:
- Each parents ability to encourage a close and continuing parent child relationship
- Division of parental responsibilities and tasks
- Desirability of maintaining a stable environment for the child
- Mental and physical health of the parents
- Moral fitness of the parents
- Capacity of the parent to provide consistent routine for the child
- Reasonable preferance of the child
- Evidence of any domestic violence or abuse
Shared parental responsibility means that both parents retain full parental rights over their children. Major decisions regarding the children must be made jointly. The parents will have joint access to records and information pertaining to the child, including medical, dental and school records.
The court will order shared parental responsibility of minor children unless it is detrimental to the "best interests of the child". If shared responsibility would be detrimental to the child, then the court may order sole parental responsibility, with or without timesharing (formerly called "visitation rights") rights to the other parent.
A parenting plan governs the relationship between the parties relating to decisions made regarding the child. Any plan approved by the court must include a description of how the parent will divide responsibility for the child rearing tasks, the time sharing schedule, designation of which parent will be responsible for child's health and school related matters and also will set forth permissible communication methods.
In any proceeding in which parental responsibility, primary support, primary residence or tie sharing is contested, the court may refer the parties to mediation. Mediation services may be provided by the court or by a court approved mediator. All information in the mediation is confidential and priviledged and may not be disclosed without the written consent of all parties.
The court may order the Department of Children and Family Services("DCF") or qualified court children. appointed staff to conduct an investigation and social study on all facts pertinent to the parents and the children. As a part of this investigation, the court may order a psychological evaluation of the child and or the parents. A report and recommendation is then made which will be reviewed and considered by the court.
Before the court enters final judgment, it must require both parties to complete a court approved parenting course.
Tampa FL 33614