How to Get Full Child Custody in Florida

How to Get Full Child Custody

Posted in Custody,Florida Family Law on March 15, 2017

One question we get at least two or three times per week is “How do I get full custody of my kids?” It’s not a question that is unique to mother or father. When there is a breakdown of the marriage, a change in the child raising aspect of the family will invariably occur.   There will be allegations that the other parent is not serving the best needs of the children, that you can do a better job than your spouse managing the lives of your children and that the children should not, under any circumstance, be left alone with your future ex-spouse. Why? Other than the fact that you are upset by the events in your life, you may not like or have any knowledge about who the ex is spending time with; who his friends are and, moreover, is he/she in a relationship and, if so, with whom? Where are they from, what do they do and what gives them the “right” to be involved in any way with your children?

Steps to Get Full Child Custody

The description of events goes something like this: My spouse is a miserable piece of garbage and an unfit parent – I want FULL CUSTODY of our child – how to I get it?

Here’s the thing:  the concept of custody does not exist in Florida – too politically incorrect a term I suppose. Instead we talk in terms of a parenting plan and timesharing. It amounts to the same thing.  Who’s going to have the kids and when? Who’s going to pay for soccer, ballet and piano lessons; who’s going tote Jimmy and Jenny around? Stuff like that. Remember: who, what, when, where, how much and how often? Notice that there is no why in there. The reason for that is simple: unless there is a parental dispute about any aspect of the parenting plan that requires judicial intervention, the court really doesn’t care about why you did what you did in the parenting plan. Yes, there are some judges that will actually scrutinize the plan and even ask a few questions about it at the final hearing. For the most part though, the court is happy if you reached an agreement with your spouse. You’ve saved the court from having to decide how a family it knows nothing about should spend time with each other. Sometimes there is no choice – you’ve got to go to court and see the judge. It’s rare but it happens.

Here’s how it usually works: Assuming both parents are decent people – mom’s not a crack whore, dad’s not been featured on an episode of “To Catch a Predator”, both parents are going to have time with the children. How much time? – who knows.  Depends on where you live, work schedules, how much time you each may want; hey, you may have had enough of the spouse and the kids.  Who knows?    There just aren’t any simple answer. Yes, I know all about father’s rights advocates who say time should be equal between mother and father.  It’s not quite that simple and as most right thinking people would agree –  the mother is the most important person in a child’s life (watch for future posts on that very touchy subject).

Look, do the right thing for your kids and work out a parenting plan on your own.  It makes sense to take control of your family affairs instead of a judge who has hundreds of cases to deal with and has little time to decide trivial issues (i.e., pick up and drop off times being one of the most litigated issues). Take some time to review the parenting plan for before taking it to your spouse. Prepare yourself to make compromises; prepare to be flexible and reasonable. Remember, you’ve got a long time before your kids are off on their own. There will be changes along the way based upon your needs, your spouse’s needs and the needs of your children. Life is fluid; things happen that you do not expect. For the sake of your children and your own mental health, keep the lines of communication with your ex open.

What if we can’t reach an agreement on child custody?

If you can’t reach agreement on the parenting plan, great – for the lawyers that is. Financially, we lawyers are better off if you don’t agree; mediation, temporary orders on timesharing and support (after motions, phone calls, hearings and a big bill) and the big one from a fee standpoint – trial. Nothing a trial lawyer likes more than a nice trial for a day or two; but hey, do what’s best for you.

Full custody? What you are really looking for is sole parental responsibility and a limitation of some sort on timesharing; perhaps supervised timesharing. When might that be appropriate: if mother is a crack whore and dad has been featured on an episode of “To Catch a Predator.” You too can figure out if your case warrants a request for limitations of timesharing. Use your common sense. Be guided by the concept of “good faith.” If you can ask a judge to impose limitations because you have a good faith basis to do so, fine. Pop-tarts for breakfast and too much soda after school may not be a good idea but not a good faith basis to ask a court to limit time.

If you need help in any family law case anywhere in Florida, Steven D Miller, P.A. works in all 67 Florida counties – go to our website and take a look around. Call or email to schedule a FREE phone or video consultation and find out if we can help.

Remember, “When it’s time to leave. . . Call Steve.”

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