How does Florida decide child custody?

When parents divorce in Florida, they have the opportunity to create a custody and parenting plan that addresses both the needs of the child and their rights as parents. When former spouses are unable to agree, however, the family court judge decides on behalf of the family. 

Learn more about the factors the state uses to determine child custody. 

Types of custody 

Florida recognizes both legal and physical child custody. The court usually orders shared legal custody, which is the ability of each parent to make important decisions on the child’s behalf. Although the presumption in Florida is for shared physical custody, the exact parenting time schedule depends on the specific needs of the child and the family. 

Safety and health of the child 

Florida favors parenting arrangements in which both parents share responsibility for raising and caring for their children. The exception occurs when one parent has a history of neglect, abandonment, child abuse or domestic violence. The judge will also consider whether each parent is mentally and physically able to care for the child, including any history of or current substance use. 

In addition to a child’s physical health and safety, parents must demonstrate attention to the child’s emotional and developmental needs. Factors in this type of support include consistent discipline, knowledge of the child’s daily life, the ability to provide routines, and whether the child can emotionally handle a schedule involving equal time with both parents. 

Communication and co-parenting 

Parents must demonstrate a willingness to encourage a healthy relationship between the other parent and the child. This includes adherence to any existing time-sharing schedule, communication about important events and milestones in the child’s life as well as schedule changes, and whether either parent disparages the other in front of the child. 

Parents must present the court with a parenting plan, which will be legally binding if the judge approves. This document should include details about sharing time and responsibilities of parenting and information about how the parents will communicate with one another. 

FindLaw Network
The Florida Bar | Board Certified
Super Lawyers
Peer Review Rated For Ethical Standards & Legal Ability | AV Preeminent | Martindale-Hubbell from LexisNexis 2020
AFLP | Association of Family Law Professionals
Bar Register | Preeminent Lawyers | 2020 Martindale-Hubbell