How Florida Child Custody Works

How Florida Child Custody Works

If you are facing a child custody case, you may wonder how things work. This isn’t unusual, since the laws can be complex and confusing.

It’s important to remember that if you have questions or need legal representation for your child custody case, you should hire a child custody attorney. At Griffin Family Law, I am here to help you with your situation and ensure you understand your rights.

Keep reading to learn more about child custody in Florida.

Physical Custody Defined

The term physical custody refers to where your children live. You and your child’s other parent may decide to share physical custody of your child or just one parent may have physical custody. The legal term in Florida for when you share custody is joint physical custody. For children who live with just one parent, it’s called sole physical custody.

Florida law focuses on children having ongoing custody with both of their parents. What this means is that judges will usually only order sole physical custody in rare circumstances if there is a compelling reason to do so, such as abuse, distance, or one parent is unavailable or unreliable.

Legal Custody Defined

Legal custody is a term that’s used to cover anything that physical custody doesn’t. This includes any decisions regarding things like:

  • Medical treatment
  • Religious training
  • Choice of tutors and schools
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Mental health care

Similar to physical custody, legal custody can be shared or given to one parent. Also, judges favor shared legal custody in most situations.

Understanding 50-50 Custody in Florida

While dividing custody in Florida may seem simple in writing, it’s a situation where each parent has their child or children for 50% of the time and they will share all important decisions. However, life usually does not work out this easily. In most people’s lives, parents will share custody in different ways. In most cases, you have to decide what works for you.

The Child Custody Process in Florida

The process of deciding on child custody in Florida involves several steps. These are highlighted here.

Initial Preparation

It’s important to plan ahead when it comes to child custody. Make sure you consider what’s in the best interest of your child or children. Know the type of schedule you want or that you can work with and if you plan to hire an attorney to help with your situation.

File the Petition

After preparing, you will file a petition where a judge will listen to both sides and guide the process. If you are going through a divorce when child custody is being determined, parental responsibility, timesharing, and child support will all be included in the divorce settlement.

If you aren’t getting divorced, you can still file a petition for child custody. Contact me at Griffin Family Law to learn more about this.

Complete a Parenting Class

In the state of Florida, the goal is to reduce the negative impact that divorce commonly has on families and children. The way it does this is with education. Because of this, it’s mandatory that parents take a Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course if they are filing for divorce and have minor children. The course lasts for four hours, and it must be completed before your divorce is finalized. you can divorce.


Both parents have up to 45 days from the opening of a case to provide disclosures. This includes financial information via a financial affidavit. In some situations, you may want to know or need to know more information than what these mandatory disclosures will provide. This may result in cases of extended discovery, which include things like depositions, subpoenas, and requests for evidence.


If a case is contested and involves minor children, then you must attend mediation in Florida. A mediator will lead the process and work to get an agreement between both parents.

Pretrial Conference

It isn’t unusual for the parents and their legal counsel to participate in a conference before they go to trial. The judge may suggest settlement at the conference and establish rules for the trial. Sometimes, the date for the trial is given at this time, too.


If the issues in the case remain disputed, then a trial will occur. During the trial, your legal counsel will question witnesses and present evidence. The final order will be announced at the end of the trial, and this is considered a final judgment. It will include a parenting plan and child support if ordered.

Get Help with Your Child Custody Case

When it comes to child custody, hiring a child custody attorney is in your best interest. At Griffin Family Law, I am ready to provide you with the services you need and ensure you get the best possible outcome for your case. Get in touch today to schedule an initial consultation.

Read More

Understanding a Father’s Rights in Florida

What You Should Consider Before Hiring a Child Custody Attorney

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