Understanding Child Custody
Florida courts give both parents equal consideration when determining parental responsibility and parenting time. When minor children are part of the divorce process, a parenting plan must be established to spell out issues such as parental responsibility, time-sharing schedule, health care, education, medical coverage, emotional well-being, and other issues for the children. It must contain a specific schedule for time-sharing and parental responsibility, as well as take into account all circumstances between the parents as they relate to the children.
When both parents agree to shared parental responsibility, both parents have full parental rights and responsibilities for the children including making major decisions jointly.
If a parenting arrangement is made where only one parent has sole parental responsibility, the other parent may or may not be provided visitation rights. Sole parental responsibility is not the norm in Florida but may be ordered in certain circumstances.
A parenting plan must be created and agreed to by both parents and approved by the court. If the parents are unable to reach an agreement on all issues a judge will make the decision regarding parental responsibility and parenting time in the best interest of the children.
In Florida every child has the legal right to child support. Both parents have an obligation and responsibility to support their children in a way that benefits each of the children and covers their needs. These needs may include housing, food, health care, education, child care, and other issues.
Florida has specific child support guidelines that help determine how much support a child is entitled to based on the combined income of the two parents and the number of children receiving child support. While the guidelines establish the baseline expectation of child support, the parents may agree to or ask the court to establish alternate child support amounts.
The determination of both parents' income will be based on:
Salary or wages
Bonuses, commissions, allowances, overtime, tips, and other similar payments
Business income from sources such as self-employment, partnership, close corporations, and independent contracts.
All workers' compensation benefits and settlements
Pension, retirement, or annuity payments
Social security benefits
Spousal support received from a previous marriage or court ordered in the marriage before the court
Interest and dividends
Income from royalties, trusts, or estates
And many other forms of income
Modification Of Child Support
Florida law allows for modification of child support. Generally, modification may be requested when there is a "substantial change in circumstances" for either parent or for the minor children, such as a significant increase or decrease in income, a change in the amount of time or overnights the children spend with a parent, a substantial change in expenses related to the children (such as health insurance premiums or day care expenses), or if there is a significant change in the needs of the child (such as the child becoming disabled). The modification must also be in the best interest of the children. Modifications may also requested when a minor child becomes emancipated or becomes an adult and is no longer entitled to child support. Florida statute allows for a modification when there is a change of at least 15% or $50.00 per month.