Divorce is challenging for any family, especially when children are involved. At Orlando Family Team, we are dedicated to helping you and your children go through the restructuring of your family as smoothly as possible, including the complex issues of child custody arrangements. 

Our attorneys have been representing clients throughout Central Florida for many years, specializing in all facets of family law. Years of experience have honed our skills and deepened our compassion. With a profound understanding of the emotional and legal intricacies of divorce and child custody, we will advocate for your interests and those of your children, ensuring that confrontation is kept to a minimum while your voices are heard loud and clear.

Understanding Physical and Legal Custody

Clarifying the distinction between physical and legal custody is essential in any discussion of child custody.

Physical custody 

Physical custody pertains to the child’s living arrangements, designating which parent the child will reside with on a day-to-day basis. In the State of Florida, physical custody is more appropriately known as “time-sharing.” Physical custody or time-sharing can be sole, where the child lives with one parent full-time, or joint, where the child splits time between the parents’ individual homes. In this scenario, the time-sharing may be equal or “50-50,” or one parent may have majority time-sharing, where they have more than 50% of the time-sharing overnight with the child and the other parent has a lesser schedule of time. When physical custody is sole, the noncustodial parent may be awarded supervised parenting time. Physical custody arrangements are designed to maintain stability in the child’s life and to protect the best interests of the child.

Legal Custody

Legal custody refers to the right of a parent to make significant decisions regarding their child’s upbringing in regard to education, health care, religious training, and general welfare. In Florida, legal custody is more commonly referred to as “Parental Responsibility.” Like physical custody, legal custody can be sole or joint (“shared”), though in the majority of cases, both parents share legal custody in what is referred to as shared parental responsibility. 

Types of Child Custody

In most cases, when we speak of child custody, we are referring to physical custody.

As noted, if parents are given joint physical custody or time-sharing, typically both parents retain legal custody or parental responsibility rights and share decision-making responsibilities for their child.

  • Sole physical custody means that the child lives with one parent and may spend supervised parenting time, with the other parent.
  • Joint physical custody means that the child alternates — living a substantial amount of time with each parent, in which case parental homes have to be relatively close to one another. Although the child usually goes to each parent’s home, there are cases in which the child stays in one home and the parents come and go, in which case the travel distance between the parents’ individual homes will not affect the child’s well-being. 

If the parents cannot come to an agreement about child custody on their own, the court will decide which type of child custody is in the child’s best interests.

How Custody Arrangements Are Decided in Florida

When the court must decide on child custody arrangements, many factors are taken into consideration, including:

  • Each parent’s capacity to maintain a loving, stable, consistent, and nurturing relationship with the child.
  • Each parent’s ability to provide a safe and secure environment for the child.
  • Each parent’s ability to provide a financially stable environment for the child.
  • Which parent has been the child’s primary caregiver during the marriage.
  • The geographical viability of the custody plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children.
  • The work schedule of each parent.
  • The moral fitness of each parent.
  • The mental and physical health of each parent.
  • Any special needs of the child.
  • The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient understanding and maturity.
  • The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to parent a minor child.
  • The fact that one parent bad-mouths the other in an attempt to interfere with the parent-child relationship.
  • Emotional ties the child has with siblings, grandparents, and other household members.
  • Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect on the part of either parent.

At Orlando Family Team, we are committed to avoiding court disputes about child custody whenever possible, but we are even more committed to protecting you and your child. We are excellent litigators and, if necessary, will fight aggressively to keep your child safe, secure, and well-tended.

When Sole Custody Is the Right Choice

Sole custody may be deemed necessary for reasons of location or job scheduling or when one parent is incapable of proper care due to substance abuse, mental health issues, or a history of abuse, neglect, domestic violence, or criminal activity. It is also considered if one parent is significantly less capable of providing a stable and healthy environment or has a live-in partner whom the court deems a threat to the child’s well-being. 

Parenting Time When There Is Sole Custody in Florida

Even when one parent is granted sole custody, the noncustodial parent typically retains the right to supervised visitation or parenting time, unless it is deemed harmful to the child’s well-being. This time is structured to foster an ongoing relationship between the child and the noncustodial parent, with schedules and conditions tailored to fit the child’s best interest, safety, and convenience. If the court perceives a risk to the child during visitation, supervised visits may be required to continue until the threat is removed and joint custody and time-sharing in an unsupervised manner can take place.

Contact Our Experienced Child Custody Attorneys Today

Navigating the often turbulent waters of divorce and child custody requires a knowledgeable and compassionate guide. At Orlando Family Team, we always prioritize your child’s best interests while facilitating a process that meets your family’s needs. 

Get in touch with our empathic team today for outstanding legal representation and caring moral support. We know that nothing is more important to you than your child.