Divorces can drag out for months, even years, when there are disputes between the parties concerning children, property and joint business ventures in some cases.  One of the most difficult parts of divorce is deciding how you will work through your disagreements without negatively affecting your children’s lives to share time in the State of Florida.  In Florida, both parents get sole/shared parental responsibility for the children.  There is no preference shown to the mother over the father in the courts and it is policy to encourage an amicable time sharing schedule between parents, so children have frequent and continuous contact with both.  The only way a court will deviate from this shared responsibility is when it determines that shared time would be harmful to the children of the divorce.

Shared parental responsibility. In Florida, the time sharing schedule that will be decided by the court is to be done in the best interests of the children, not either of the parents according to Florida Statutes 61.13, and speaks to the question of relocation by parents with minor children.  The parent who will have the children more often will be considered the majority parent.  Both parents have to complete a parenting course before proceedings can be completed.  Parental responsibility will be determined during the divorce proceeding.

Necessity of proper filing for divorce. A petition for divorce should be filed in a timely manner if you have an idea that your husband might take your children out of the state.  Filing for divorce would be done in the state where the children live and should be done before your husband takes the children out of state.  Otherwise you will have to prove that Florida is the legal residence of the children and a court order will have to be initiated to get him to bring them back to the state.  If you let your husband leave with the children, and do not file any kind of paperwork for a time that it takes for him to set up new residency in another state (usually six months and they enroll in school or things of that nature) then you may have some difficulty with using Florida State custody laws because the new state can obtain jurisdiction over the minor children and the issue of how parental responsibility and custody will be handled.

Order of temporary custody. If you have reason to believe that your spouse may attempt to take the children to another state under the guise  of a visit, or kidnap them, you may be able to get an emergency temporary custody order. Your attorney will obtain an enforceable decree from the court that specifies the temporary terms of custody. The decree can include a court order (“injunction”) that bans your spouse from removing your children from the state. If your spouse takes your children, you can produce the injunction to the police to get their assistance in retrieving your children.

Since your husband already took the children against your wishes, you may be headed for a contested divorce with problems regarding the custody of your children.  It would be best to familiarize yourself with Florida Statute 61.13(3) and consult with a lawyer who specializes in divorce. Once the courts have been notified about your husband taking the kids against your wishes, it will be part of the history that determines how shared responsibility will be handled.  A temporary child custody order may have to initiated in the case of your husband taking the children to another state.

Parental time sharing in Florida. The factors the judge will consider regarding time sharing include:

  1. Proof that parents can or will provide the children with a consistent routine involving discipline, bedtime, meals, etc.;
  2. The mental and physical health of the parents;
  3. The home, school and community record of the children;
  4. The willingness and ability of each parent to encourage a close and continuing relationship between the children and the other parent, to honor the time-sharing schedule, to be reasonable when changes are required, and to communicate with other parent;
  5. How parental responsibilities will be divided up after the case is over;
  6. The ability and willingness of each parent to consider and act upon the children’s needs (as opposed to the parent’s own needs) and to be involved with children’s friends, teachers, extracurricular activities, doctors, etc.;
  7. The moral fitness of the parents;
  8. Whether the parents do not speak ill of the other to the children;
  9. How long the children has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the benefit to the children of not changing that situation;
  10. How much traveling the children would have to do;
  11. Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, children abuse, neglect or abandonment or evidence of providing false information to the court about these issues;
  12. Who was the primary care-taker of the children;
  13. The ability of both parents to meet children’s development needs;
  14. The reasonable preference of the children, if the judge believes that the children is mature / intelligent enough to form a preference;
  15. Whether the parents have or will provide a home that is free of drug use; and
  16. Any other supporting factors.

Parental plan. After these factors are considered, a parenting plan is established specifying how parents will look after children when the divorce is completed. The provisions of the plan include general and holiday time sharing schedules, education, children care, in-state, out-of-state, and foreign travel, and should be simple, practical and as specific as possible.  Filing the proper paperwork and communicating effectively with your soon to be ex-spouse may speed the shared responsibility process along.  Hiring a skilled family law attorney can expedite the process.

During a divorce, matters of children custody or shared responsibility are difficult and navigating your way to the best possible outcome for your children after your divorce has been finalized is easier with the help of the legal professionals at The Aiken Family Law Group who have divorce law experience in Orlando, Florida.

The Aiken Family Law Group

2180 Park Avenue North

Building 100
Winter Park, Florida 32789
407-644-4414 (fax)