Florida Child Custody 101

You have Child Custody Questions? We have answers.

Below we have put together answers to the most common Child Custody questions in Florida. If you can’t find an answer to your question on this site, feel free to contact us for a free telephonic consultation.

What Are the Child Custody Laws in Florida?

As a resident of Florida you have a specific law that spells out how a Judge should analyze child custody in Florida.

This law provides the framework for both the type of child custody, and the schedule of when the child with be what you or your spouse.

At its heart, Child Custody laws in Florida want the best interests of the minor children.

But what sounds so simple is amazingly complex.  Because every case is simple, Florida provides an exhaustive amount of “factors” a Judge must address when deciding on child custody.

These factors include:

  1. Which parent nurtures a good relationship between the children and the other parent
  2. The geographic viability of a given parenting plan,
  3. Mental health or substance abuse issues of either parent,
  4. Special Needs of the Children,
  5. The Children’s relationship with each parent during the “formative years”,
  6. The duties and responsibilities of each parent during the marriage,
  7. The duties and responsibilities of each parent after separation but before the divorce is final,
  8. History of domestic violence among the parties

What Are the Types of Child Custody in Florida?

The type of child custody is called Parental Responsibility in Florida.

Parental Responsibility refers to the rights and responsibilities for each parent.

For example, decision make on schooling or health care is a parental responsibility.

The parents can have shared parental responsibility or one parent can have sole parental responsibility.

Shared Parental Responsibility

Florida presumes that shared parental responsibility is appropriate in the vast majority of cases.  That means if both parents are fit, without substance abuse or mental health problems, shared parental responsibility is the appropriate type of child custody.

Florida courts do recognize that sometimes parents simply cannot agree on certain matters. In these scenarios, it might be appropriated to award shared parental responsibility to both parties but to give ultimate decision making to one parent for a particular set of responsibilities.

Sole Responsibility

In a minority of cases, sole parental responsibility is awarded to a single parent for the child.

Because sole parental responsibility is against the Policy wishes of Florida, the Judge has to make a written finding as to why it is in the best interest of the child or children to leave on parent out of the decision making process.

Usually sole parental responsibility goes hand in hand with supervised or no time sharing of  a parent. Think drugs, violence, sexual, physical or emotional abuse.

OK, But What Types of Visitation Schedules are there in Florida?

Florida does not recommend a specific visitation, or timeshare schedule.

Every case is unique, and the Courts are hesitant to shove everyone into a stock time sharing schedule.

Some common examples include:

7 on 7 off (Rotating Custody)

The simplest way to execute the “50/50″ time-sharing that many parents request. A 7 on 7 off plan rotates weeks.

The parents will choose a particular day and time for the exchange that works best for kids.


Rotating Custody

7/7 Split


4/3 Split

This split also gives substantial time-sharing to both parents.  A 4/3 split usually has the child with the parents on the same days of the week, every week.

This is most useful for giving children predicable stability, and to aid when a parent “always works on the weekends”.

4/3 Rotating Custody Split

4/3 Rotating Custody Split

Every Other Weekend

A very traditional plan that has fallen out of favor in the majority of Florida’s Courtrooms, the every other weekend is precisely as listed below.

every other weekend custody split

Every Other Weekend


Every Other Weekend With One Day During The Week

A modification of the every other weekend that has the effect of giving the minor custody parent substantial time-sharing.

In the every other weekend example below, the minority parent takes the children from Friday after school until Monday morning every other weekend.

The minority parent also has the children every Wednesday.

This results in the minority parent having 10/28 overnights or 36% of the overnights.

This is a good compromise for keeping the children “on a schedule” while also securing quality time for both parents.

Every otherweekend and one day midweek child custody

Every other Weekend 1 Day Midweek

The custody schedules above are by no means exhaustive.  In settlement talks, the parents are only limited by their creativity.

Parental Alienation: What can I Do?

In recent years, the Courts have begun to recognize the very real problem of parental alienation.

Parental Alienation happens when one parent indoctrinates a child against the other parent.  The child, with a desire to “take sides” fights and battles with the other parent.

Parental Alienation at its worst requires Court ordered intervention therapy by a parenting coordinator or other custody expert.

 What Responsibilities Do I Have During the Pending Divorce?

Each parent must protect the child from the ongoing litigation with the child. This means they can’t share documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and they must refrain from disparaging comments about the other parent. Uniquely, a Tampa Child Custody lawyer is required to also consider the child’s best interests along with his clients.

All family cases with minor children must establish a parenting plan. This plan defines how the parents will share and be responsible for the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child. Additionally, it outlines the time-sharing schedule arrangements, and specifies the parent that is responsible for health care and school related matters.

In many cases, the parents are at odds on what parenting plan is most appropriate for the child.  A Tampa Child Custody Attorney can help bridge the gap in developing a plan, and litigate the child custody case when needed.