Experienced Tampa Family Law Attorney Answers Questions About Florida’s Child Custody Laws

Helping you understand your rights and responsibilities

Determining child custody and visitation is one of the biggest issues in a divorce, and it is also one of the most emotionally wrought. Most parents don’t want to be separated from their children — even part time — and will fight to get as much time with their children as they can get. Other parents make the issue of child custody, known as time sharing in Florida, more contentious by trying to use the children as pawns in their battle with each other. They try to hurt the other parent by limiting visitation or taking away custody.

Working with the experienced Tampa child support attorney at The Law Office of Mark G. Rodriguez helps you get the time-sharing arrangement that is best for you and your children. These answers to some of our most frequently asked questions also highlight some of the most important issues related to child custody cases.

When is child custody decided?

A final time-sharing arrangement will not be put in place until the final hearing of a divorce or custody case. However, a temporary order can be issued when the parents separate or file for divorce. The arrangement that is established in the temporary order can be modified in the final ruling.

What are the Types of Custody Arrangements?

In Florida, child custody is always based solely on the best interests of the children involved. The court’s default stance, however, is that children are best served when they have both parents in their lives (save for extreme circumstances). Florida courts categorize custody in the following ways:

  • Shared parental responsibility
  • Sole parental responsibility
  • Majority time-sharing
  • Equal time-sharing

Responsibility here refers to who makes the important decisions on the children’s behalf, and time-sharing refers to whom the children live with.

How do the courts decide on custody?

The primary factor in determining custody is what is in the best interests of the child. However, that is a subjective judgment. Our Tampa child custody lawyer builds the strongest case on your behalf to show that what’s in the best interest of your child is to have primary residence with you.

When deciding on custody, the court will consider:

  • The parent’s ability and willingness to nurture the child’s relationship with the other parent
  • Each parent’s ability to support the child financially, emotionally, and mentally
  • The stability of the home environment that each parent provides
  • How involved each parent is in the child’s school work and social life
  • Any history of abuse or neglect, either between the parents or toward the child

Since, again, many of these issues are subjective, it is important to work with our attorney to make the best case for your ability to provide the superior environment for the child. If the child is older, he may be asked to give an opinion about where he would like to live.

When can I modify a child custody order?

You can petition to modify a child custody order at any time that you can show there has been a significant change in the circumstances under which the original agreement was created. For example, you may petition for more time if your former partner is no longer working and able to provide for the child, or you may petition to deny visitation to the other parent if you discover that abuse is taking place.

It is important to work with an experienced lawyer when attempting to modify a child custody order since you will need to show proof of the changes you allege have taken place. Our experienced attorney provides aggressive, yet compassionate, representation in these cases, fighting hard to get results while also showing sensitivity through what is a difficult time.

Can I deny visitation because my co-parent stopped paying child support?

No. The visitation schedule is not contingent on payment of child support, and denying visitation that was already ordered by a court could jeopardize your own custody share.

If your co-parent is not paying child support, you can work with our Tampa child support lawyer to collect the amount owed. The court may order that wages be garnished or other collection measures be taken, and your co-parent could be subject to fines and penalties, including jail time.

Must one parent pay child support if both parents share custody?

Usually, yes. Child support will be determined using guidelines established by Florida law. Those guidelines take into consideration the income of both parents, expenses such as health care and day care, and how much time the child spends with each parent.

The goal of a child support order is to ensure that the basic needs of the child are met and that there is no significant change to the quality of life the child enjoyed with both parents. That means that a higher-earning parent may have to pay child support even if the child spends time with both parents.

What do I do if my co-parent denies my visitation?

Contact our office as soon as possible. A simple letter from our attorney may be enough to let your co-parent know that you mean business about enforcing the visitation schedule. If not, our attorney will file the necessary paperwork to get your case before a judge as soon as possible and follow whatever legal recourse is necessary.

The Tampa child custody attorney at The Law Office of Mark G. Rodriguez has been helping clients like you get the time-sharing arrangement they want for years. Call our firm today at at (813) 227-9642 or use our secure online form to schedule a consultation. Learn your legal rights and fight for what’s best for your family.