As a parent, your child is your world. That’s why child custody disputes are some of the most stressful & challenging experiences a parent can endure. You probably have strong beliefs about how your child should be raised. Your child’s other parent likely has their own opinions (which may not be the same as yours). Finding a happy medium is rarely a simple task. That’s where we come in.
Our attorneys are experienced in dealing with child custody issues. We help parents like you negotiate parenting plans that put your child first. If your custody dispute gets ugly, we aren’t afraid to aggressively fight for your rights. We will stand up for you and your child, whether your custody dispute is just beginning, or you need to modify or enforce an existing Order.
The first step to resolving any custody matter is being informed. Read on for more information specific to your situation.
In effort to promote co-parenting, the State of Florida revised the term “custody”, replacing it with the terms “Time-sharing” and “Parental Responsibility”.
The goal of this change in terminology is to encourage a healthier relationship between the child and their parents after the divorce, as well as promoting shared parental responsibility between the parents. Custody decisions are made according to the “best interests of the child.” The “best interests of the child” are often determined by looking at 20 well-defined factors set forth in Florida Statute §61.13(3). This change in the Florida law now requires a Parenting Plan for every custody matter.
Parenting Plans are detailed child custody agreements that outline (at a minimum) the following:
If you already have a Parenting Plan or custody order and the other parent is not following the plan, you can legally enforce the Plan. When one party refuses to follow a court order, that party can be held in contempt – civil or criminal. Contempt is a term which means the refusal to obey a court order. Certain procedural rules must be followed before a court can find someone in contempt and proper evidence must be presented at the hearing. It is wise to retain an experienced attorney to assist you with such a hearing to invoke the court’s contempt powers and force the other parent to comply with the parenting plan.
Children grow and, often, their needs and desires change. This may warrant amending or modifying your parenting plan. The good news is that parenting plans are easily modifiable if the changes are agreed to by both parties. It is always a good strategy to discuss these issues with the other parent prior to commencing litigation. You should contact an attorney to assist with such modifications or amendments because they must be adopted by the court for the new parenting plan to be legally enforceable.
If the other parent refuses to modify or amend the parenting plan, you can seek intervention from the court. You will have to file a petition to modify the parenting plan or final judgment and specify the changes you are seeking. The petition must contain a short and plain statement about the substantial change in circumstances that required the requested changes. The petition needs to be served upon the other party for the litigation to commence. The court will hold an evidentiary hearing, or trial, for both parties to present their case. If you are in this position, you may want an attorney to represent your interests and fight aggressively for you in court.
Paternity suits may be commenced by a father seeking custody or visitation, a mother seeking child support, a child looking to establish a parental relationship, or by the state as reimbursement for certain forms of public assistance. This type of action starts with a petition to the court requesting a DNA test to confirm paternity. Often, a paternity action is the first step towards a custody and child support case so it is wise to seek the advice of an attorney to prepare for the potential consequences of the paternity suit.