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Can I Seek Sole Custody?


Whether you are getting ready for a divorce and have minor children from your marriage, or you are ending a long-term relationship from which you have minor children, you should be thinking about critical child custody issues. Many parents in the Orlando area who are anticipating a child custody case want to know more about their rights as parents and, in some situations, whether it is possible to seek sole custody of the child or children. Under Florida law, Orlando courts no longer use the terms “sole custody” or “joint custody” when it comes to child custody. Instead, courts rely on the “best interests of the child” standard to determine parenting and time-sharing.

Just because Florida courts no longer award sole or joint legal and physical custody does not mean that a court will not determine that it is in the child’s best interest to spent all or most time with just one of the parents, or for just one of the parents to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing. However, these scenarios are somewhat uncommon given the way that Florida courts approach child custody.

Courts Begin from the Premise That Both Parents Should Have Frequent and Continuing Contact with their Children 

While the equivalent of “sole custody” is not impossible in certain circumstances, you should know that Florida law stipulates that courts begin from a presumption that both parents should be able to spend time with their kids. The statute says:

“It is the public policy of this state that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage both parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing. There is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule when creating or modifying the parenting plan of the child.”

Further, the statute says that “the court shall order that the parental responsibility for a minor child be shared by both parents unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child.” To be clear, courts start from the presumption that parents will share custody, and the court will only say that sole parental responsibility is appropriate if contact with, or a relationship with, one of the parents would be detrimental to the child.

For Sole Parental Responsibility, Shared Custody Must Be Detrimental to the Child and Sole Responsibility Must Be in the Best Interests of the Child 

To be clear, if only one parent is going to have sole parental responsibility without the other parenting having time-sharing, the parent seeking sole parental responsibility will need to show that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child and that shared parental responsibility is in the child’s best interests. 

What kinds of facts could lead the court to say that shared parenting would be detrimental to the child? The statute cites some of the following:

  • Parent has been convicted of a domestic violence offense;
  • Parent has abandoned the child;
  • Parent has been convicted of a criminal offense resulting from an act of child abuse;
  • Parent is incarcerated for a significant portion of the child’s minority;
  • Parent has been determined to be a violent career criminal;
  • Parent has been determined to be a sexual predator; or
  • Parent has been convicted of a violent felony offense.

Contact an Orlando Child Custody Lawyer 

When you have questions or concerns about child custody, an Orlando child custody & timesharing attorney is here to assist you. Contact Anderson & Ferrin today.

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