When loving parents cannot agree on custody matters, emotions run high and interfere with rational decision-making. Even in amicable divorces, finding a practical custody solution can seem impossible. An experienced Orlando child custody lawyer can diffuse the heat, help parents navigate the family court system, and represent clients’ preferences in a favorable light.
While most divorce decisions are determined based on what is fair and equitable to both spouses, the sensitive and often contentious issue of child custody in Florida is based on the interests of the children, not the parents. However, divorcing parents often disagree on what is best for their children.
If you are facing a divorce where children are involved, O’Mara Law Group can help you and the other parent come to a child custody agreement or, when this is not possible, present a compelling case on your behalf in court.
Do I need a lawyer for child custody?
Divorcing parents may have never navigated the court system. An experienced child custody attorney is comfortable in the courtroom and accustomed to the sensitive and sometimes heated nature of custody negotiations.
O’Mara Law Group has been helping couples navigate child custody for more than 35 years, and we know how to help divorcing spouses with the following:
Our job as your Orlando custody attorney is to show the court why your desires for your children serve their best interests.
How to Get Full Custody of a Child in Florida
Florida family courts recognize that children’s best interests are typically served when they enjoy regular, ongoing contact with both parents. As a result, they award joint custody by default. Full custody is only awarded in extreme cases where one parent is unfit. State law requires a full custody determination in the following scenarios:
What are the primary considerations in a child custody case?
The family court must familiarize itself with the dynamics of the family and consider all relevant factors, which include but are not limited to the following:
Can my children choose where they will live?
The court will consider the preferences of the child if the court deems the child mature enough to understand and express such preferences. However, children are not always aware of all the factors that contribute to their best interests. The child’s preferences will be weighed against all other factors when determining custody.
What is the child custody process in Florida?
The process of determining child custody is intended to provide the court with insight into the living environment provided by each parent and ensure the child’s best interests are protected.
Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course
Every divorcing parent in Florida is required to take a minimum four-hour course that provides education about such topics as the custody process, the effects of divorce on children, and how parents can mitigate these effects.
The Parenting Plan
The parenting plan is the governing document in custody orders. Ideally, this plan is devised and agreed upon by the parents, but when necessary, it is established by the court. It governs such matters as the following:
The parenting schedule must include such considerations as when the child will stay overnight with each parent and the child’s holiday schedule.
The Florida family court system encourages parents to develop the parenting plan outside of court. If families are unable to do so amicably, they may be ordered into mediation, and/or a parenting plan coordinator may be appointed.
Mediation may be required before a case is tried in court because an agreement between the parents is usually in the best interests of a child as opposed to a protracted court battle.
The mediator is a court-certified neutral party who, without judgment, facilitates an environment in which the parents can discuss their differences and come to an agreement with regard to any contested custody issues.
If an agreement is reached, it will still have to be approved by the court, at which time it becomes legally binding.
Parenting coordination is a child-focused alternative dispute resolution process that can be entered into by agreement between the parents or court order. A parenting coordinator is assigned by order of the court or agreement between the parties to perform the following duties:
All communications between the parents and the parenting coordinator are confidential except as needed to protect the child or inform the court about important issues.
Parenting coordinators can only be appointed if the judge has confirmed that both parties have freely and voluntarily agreed.
How is child support calculated?
In cases where the parents share equal parenting time, the court still must order one parent to pay child support to the other. This will usually be the parent with the higher income. One purpose of child support is to ensure the child enjoys a similar standard of living in both environments.
Child support includes health insurance if the health insurance is accessible and reasonable in cost. This is usually paid for by the obligor, either by purchasing insurance directly or reimbursing the obligee for the cost of insurance.
The court may also order the obligor to purchase a life insurance policy to protect the child support award.
Can I relocate with the child?
If you wish to relocate with your child to a location more than 50 miles away you will need to reach a formal written agreement with the child’s other parent or petition the court to relocate. You must postpone relocating with the child until after such approval occurs. Relocating without court approval can result in contempt charges and impact future custody, even if the other parent consents.
The court will consider the following:
How long does a child custody case take in Florida?
Child custody cases can resolve in a matter of weeks or several months, depending on whether the case is decided through parental agreement or a contested court battle.
What can I do if my ex fails to follow custody orders?
You may be able to rectify the behavior outside of court. The first step would be to send a letter through your attorney. In many cases, this will be sufficient to bring your ex back into compliance.
If your ex continues to violate the parenting plan agreement, you may be able to obtain a solution through mediation. It is possible that your ex’s circumstances have changed and the parenting plan needs to be updated. In this case, the court would need to approve the updated plan.
If conciliatory efforts fail to bring your ex back into compliance, you can petition the court for a finding of contempt. If your ex continues to violate court orders, this could ultimately impact their parenting time.
Can I withhold visitation if my ex fails to pay child support?
Child support and parenting time are unconnected matters. Failure to pay child support is not a justification to withhold parenting time. The state of Florida provides child support enforcement on your behalf.
Withholding court-ordered parenting time could be detrimental to the child and is a violation of the parenting plan that could land you in contempt of court.
Can custody arrangements be modified?
If a change in circumstances makes the parenting plan impractical or if it no longer serves your child’s best interests, you may seek a modification. You must abide by the current arrangements until the court authorizes the change unless there is an imminent danger to you or the child. In this case, an experienced family law attorney can help you seek an emergency hearing.
Reasons for a modification may include:
How much does a child custody lawyer cost?
The cost of a child custody lawyer will depend on the amount of work required in your case. Cases resolved outside of court are less expensive than cases that must be battled inside a courtroom.
As a Supreme Court-certified family mediator, our founder Mark O’Mara has vast experience helping divorcing couples save money on legal fees by resolving their differences outside of court.
What are my options if I cannot afford a child custody attorney?
You have the right to file a request for the other parent to pay your attorney fees. The court may grant such a request in the following circumstances:
Why should I choose O’Mara Law Group to handle my custody case?
O’Mara Law Group is a leading family law practice in Orlando and the state of Florida. Founder Mark O’Mara is a Florida board-certified marital and family law attorney with the following certifications:
Mr. O’Mara’s experience and success have won him the admiration of his peers, and he has earned a Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent rating, the highest rating available. He has taught law at prestigious universities including the University of Central Florida, Florida State University School of Law, and Harvard Law School.
He has presented seminars for the Central Florida Family Law American Inn of Court, where he currently serves as president, the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar, and the Florida Family Law Practice for Paralegals program.
If you are facing a divorce in Orlando, the custody of your children is too important to leave to chance, especially if your ex has hired an attorney. Talk to a child custody lawyer today.
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