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How Do Physical and Legal Custody Differ in a Boca Raton Divorce?


If you are preparing for a divorce in Florida and you have children, you are likely very concerned about how custody works. Each state handles custody matters according to their own laws, and many states refer to the terms “legal custody” and “physical custody.” In Florida, child custody terms may differ from what you’ve read elsewhere. Back in 2008, the state opted to do away with terms like visitation, custody, non-custodial parent, and more. Instead, they’ve been replaced with more modern terminology like shared parental responsibility, sole parental responsibility, majority time sharing, and equal time sharing.

The term custody seems to indicate possession or control and was not an accurate descriptor of what happens when a child’s parents divorce. Your Boca Raton child custody attorney can help explain how the process will work during your divorce and what you might expect in regard to a court decision if you and your soon-to-be-ex cannot reach an agreement on your own.

Shared Parental Responsibility

Courts in Florida default to shared parental responsibility unless there is an important reason why it shouldn’t. The courts want both parents to be involved in the child’s life unless there is a concern that it’s not in your child’s best interests. Shared parental responsibility is like joint custody in other states, and it is where both parents retain full parental rights and are both responsible for major decisions in the child’s life.

When the court opts to award sole parental responsibility, it’s typically because one parent was convicted of certain crimes involving domestic violence. This creates a “rebuttable presumption” that shared parental responsibility would be a detriment to the child.

What is Majority Time Sharing in Florida?

As the name suggests, majority time sharing is when one parent has the child for most overnights, anything 50.1% and over throughout the year. The term given to this parent is the primary residential parent. If the court opts to award equal time sharing, this is where the child spends an equal number of overnights per year. One example would be if your child will alternate between you and your ex every other week. Unless both parents live very close to one another, this type of arrangement is not very usual.

In very rare cases, the court may require supervised time sharing for one parent. This is typically only awarded in situations where one parent has a problem with alcohol or drug addiction or there are allegations of child abuse or neglect, untreated serious mental illnesses, or concerns of family violence. In these types of situations, the court may require that a third person be present for any visits between this particular parent and the child. The supervision can be by family members or friends or even a formal supervision program.

The court will be the one to order a formal supervised visit with someone like a social worker. This individual will typically sit back and just observe, not jumping in unless something happens that requires him or her to protect the child.

Contact a Florida Child Custody Lawyer

If you have questions on how child custody works in Florida, or you need to pursue a formal court arrangement regarding your children, contact the Boca Raton child custody lawyers at the Law Offices of Schwartz | White today to schedule an initial consultation.


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