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Child Custody Lawyers in Pensacola

During a dissolution of marriage in Florida, one of the most contentious and emotionally-charged issues that must be resolved is who gets custody of the child(ren). There are times when divorcing parents do not see eye to eye, and it is difficult to come to an agreement that both parents can live with. When this is the case, it is up to the courts to make the decision based on the best interests of the child(ren). For parents in this situation, it is important to have a skilled attorney in their corner advocating for their rights and interests.

At the Law Offices of Whibbs, Stone & Barnett, P.A., we have more than 60 years of combined experience assisting clients with family law & divorce issues in Pensacola and communities throughout the Florida Panhandle and Gulf Coast. Our lawyers provide high-quality representation for important legal matters that often arise in a marriage dissolution, such as child custody. We are skilled litigators and strong negotiators. Whenever possible, we try to work out an acceptable parenting plan between you and your spouse. If necessary, however, we are ready and able to strongly argue for your interests at trial and upon appeal.

Child Custody Laws in Florida

When a Florida child custody case is contested, the courts examine several factors to determine what is in the child’s best interests. These may include:

  • Health of Current Relationships: The court examines the relationships each parent currently has with the child. The court also looks closely at each parent’s relationship with other people who are important in the child’s life. Examples include friends, teachers, coaches, parents of friends and classmates, doctors, and other family members.
  • Current Parenting Responsibilities: Another important factor is what the parenting roles and responsibilities of each parent are presently. For example, the court may look at which parent is more involved with the child’s schoolwork and extra-curricular activities, which parent takes the children to the doctor when they’re sick, etc.
  • The Child’s Present Living Situation: If the parents are living in separate homes, the child is probably already living primarily with one or the other. The home and community the child is currently living in and the school they attend are all very important factors.
  • Health of the Parents: The mental and physical health of the parents is examined, and the court also takes into account related issues such as a history of alcohol or drug abuse by either parent and/or a history of domestic violence or abuse. If adverse factors like these are present with one of the parents, the court is more likely to grant the other parent sole responsibility.
  • Preference of the Child: Who the child wants to live with is always a factor, but it becomes more important as the child gets older. Clearly, the wishes of a four to 4-6-year-old will not be given as much weight as those of a 14-16-year-old.

Allocation of Parental Responsibility   

In Florida, the term “child custody” is being phased out by the terms “parental responsibility” and “parental time sharing.” The state wants both parents to be involved in the lives of their children, unless there is a compelling reason why one (or both) should not be. As such, child custody is now more about the allocation of parental responsibility and working out a time-sharing schedule that is feasible for both parents.

Parental responsibility is the decision-making component of child custody, and it covers several areas, such as:

  • Education
  • Health Care
  • Religious Upbringing
  • Extracurricular Activities

Florida courts offer three types of parental responsibility:

  • Shared Parental Responsibility: This is the most frequently ordered form of parental responsibility, and the one the court prefers to grant unless it finds a reason to believe that this arrangement would be detrimental to the child. With shared parental responsibility, both parents confer and make all major decisions jointly regarding the child’s well-being. Under this scenario, parents must be able to come together and agree on these decisions on their own. Otherwise, the court will have to revisit the arrangement.
  • Shared Parental Responsibility with Decision-Making: This arrangement is similar to shared parental responsibility in that parents must jointly confer and try to make decisions together for the well-being of the child. The main difference is that in this scenario, one parent has ultimate decision-making authority over certain areas if they cannot agree. For example, a parenting plan may state that the mother has ultimate decision-making authority for health care decisions, but the father has ultimate authority over academic decisions.
  • Sole Parental Responsibility: With this arrangement, one parent has sole authority to make all decisions regarding the child’s well-being. The granting of sole parental responsibility must be in the best interests of the child, and it is only done in cases in which a shared arrangement would be detrimental to the child. Examples may include a parent with a substance abuse problem, mental health issues, or a history of domestic violence or abuse.

Parental Time Sharing

Time sharing is the part of the custody arrangement that deals with where the child will live and setting up a visitation schedule. There are three forms of time sharing:

  • Majority Time Sharing: This is the most common scenario in which one parent has the child for the majority of overnights throughout the year. For example, if a child spends the week with her mother and the weekends with her father, the mother has majority time sharing.
  • Equal Time Sharing: As the term indicates, each parent has the child for an equal number of overnights during the years. For example, a child who alternates living with each parent from week to week.
  • Supervised Time Sharing: In rare cases in which it can be shown that either of the other two other scenarios is detrimental to the child, supervised time sharing might be ordered. Again, this only occurs in cases when one parent has issues such as mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence, etc.

Speak with a Knowledgeable and Compassionate Pensacola Child Custody Attorney

At the Law Offices of Whibbs, Stone & Barnett, P.A., we understand the emotional impact a child custody case can have on a loving parent, and we are committed to providing skilled legal guidance and moral support during this difficult time. We work closely with our clients, taking the time to listen and fully understand their needs and concerns, so we are fully informed and able to advocate for a parenting plan that is in-keeping with yours and your children’s best interests. For a personalized consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact us today at 850-500-1111 or send us a message through our web contact form. You may also stop by our Pensacola office.

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