Orlando Child Custody Attorney

Parents going through a divorce or separation, or who have never been married and are no longer in a relationship, often have concerns about preserving the bonds with their children. Today, Florida law recognizes that mothers and fathers have equal child custody rights and allows them to agree on a parenting plan. By working with an experienced family law attorney, you can design a parenting plan that works for your family.

Orlando Family Team provides first-rate legal representation to clients in all types of child custody cases in Central Florida, from custody during divorce to cases in which you must prove paternity and fight for access to your children. Backed by extensive knowledge of the current rules regarding parental responsibilities and time-sharing, our husband and wife team have a proven history of aggressively fighting for our clients’ interests both in and out of the courtroom. When you consult us, you will benefit from having a husband and wife team in your corner. As parents, we know that spending time with our children is precious and will see to it that you have the same opportunity.

Aspects of Child Custody in Florida

Unlike many states that divide child custody into legal and physical custody, Florida replaced those terms several years ago with parental responsibilities and time-sharing. Current public policy recognizes that children benefit from healthy, constructive relationships with both parents, each of whom retains full parental rights and responsibility for their children after the marriage is dissolved. At the same time, children will usually reside primarily with one parent after the relationship ends. As such, the parents have an opportunity to agree on a parenting plan without going to court.

In short, a parenting plan outlines the basic responsibilities of each parent and establishes a time-sharing schedule for the child. While each family’s circumstances are unique, a well-conceived parenting plan considers:

  • Parental responsibility and decision-making — Formerly referred to as “legal custody,” this aspect of the parenting plan addresses decisions about the child’s education, healthcare, extracurricular activities, and religious upbringing.
  • Time-sharing — Florida law replaced physical custody with time-sharing to reflect each parent’s right to spend time with their child and allows them to establish a schedule for overnights, weekends and holidays.
  • Information sharing — Each parent has a right to know about accidents, illnesses or other circumstances that affect the welfare of their child, and they must establish specific guidelines concerning how and when to inform each other of important events in the child’s life.
  • Communication — The parents must agree on the methods and technologies they will use to communicate with the child they are not with at the time.

If the parents agree on a parenting plan, the court will approve it, provided that all aspects of parenting and time-sharing have been addressed. When parents cannot reach an agreement, the court will impose a parenting plan based on the best interests of the child. In making this determination, the court will consider factors such as:

  • The length of time the child has lived in a stable and satisfactory environment
  • The love, affection and other emotional ties existing between the parents and the child
  • The parents’ ability to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, and other material needs
  • The willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent
  • The mental and physical health of both parents
  • The moral fitness of both parents
  • Evidence of domestic violence or child abuse
  • Alcohol or drug abuse by either parent
  • The wishes of a child who is old enough to express a preference

At Orlando Family Team, we believe that it is best for parents and children to resolve custody issues outside of court. We can help to craft a parenting plan that works for the entire family and that also passes muster with the court. If an agreement cannot be reached or there are allegations of abuse or neglect, our husband and wife team are tenacious litigators who will fight to protect your children in court. Whether through negotiation or litigation, we will always put your children’s best interests first.

What Are Grounds For Full Custody In Florida?

In Florida, courts determine child custody based on the best interests of the child. However, there are some grounds that may support a parent being awarded full legal custody, including:

  • Abandonment – If one parent has abandoned the child, the other parent may get full custody.
  • Neglect – A parent who severely neglects responsibilities like medical care or education may risk full custody.
  • Abuse/Domestic Violence – Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse will likely result in the loss of custody.
  • Drug/Alcohol Abuse – Substance abuse that endangers the child is grounds for full custody.
  • Mental Illness – A severe mental health condition that affects parenting may warrant full custody.
  • Criminal Activity – Participating in illegal activity like drug dealing may justify full custody.
  • Withholding Visitation – Denying the other parent visitation can be grounds for loss of custody.
  • Parental Alienation – Bad-mouthing or turning the child against the other parent.
  • Lack of Relationship – Having no prior relationship with the child.

Proving these grounds with evidence is key. An attorney can advise on the evidence needed to support full custody. Courts will generally seek to maximize contact with both fit parents.

What Are The Rules For Child Custody In Florida?

In Florida, child custody decisions prioritize the “best interests of the child,” considering factors like each parent’s abilities, the child’s wishes (if mature enough), and maintaining stability. Shared parenting arrangements are favored unless harmful, and no single factor solely determines custody.

What Is The New Custody Law In Florida 2023?

As of July 1, 2023, Florida will implement a new child custody law known as the “Shared Parenting Act.” Key provisions include:

  • Establishing a presumption that equal, 50/50 time-sharing is in a child’s best interest.
  • Requiring courts to maximize time-sharing between both parents unless detrimental to the child.
  • Changing legal terminology from “custody” and “visitation” to “parental responsibility.”
  • Allowing retroactive petitions to modify time-sharing if not previously negotiated.
  • Requiring both parents attend parenting classes during divorce/separation.
  • Adding more factors for determining best interests and time-sharing.

The law aims to promote equal parental rights and duties in the absence of unfitness. Parenting plans will need to detail specific schedules and addresses to facilitate joint responsibility.

Contact Our Orlando Child Custody Lawyer

As a husband and wife team, Ophelia Bernal-Mora, Esq., B.C.S. and Andrew Nickolaou, Esq. know that children are the primary concern of any parent. When a marriage or relationship ends, however, anger, resentment and other difficult emotions can lead people astray. Regardless of the circumstances you are facing, our experienced child custody attorneys can help to restore order to your family.

When you work with us, we will take the time to get to know you and your children and understand your unique circumstances. We have a proven history of devising successful, court-approved parenting plans and helping families transition to a new lifestyle. In the event that circumstances change, such as a relocation, we can help to modify a custody arrangement that no longer works for your family. We also work with unmarried couples on child custody issues, including fathers who are looking to establish paternity and assert their parental rights.

Above all, we will offer you knowledge, compassion, and exceptional personal service. The best decision you can make to protect your rights and the welfare of your children is to consult Orlando Family Team. Please contact our family law attorneys today.

Orlando Family Team helps families with child custody cases in Orlando and other locations in Florida including Maitland, Orange County, Osceola County, Sanford, Seminole County, Volusia county and Winter Park.