If you are a parent going through divorce or separation in Florida, then you don't necessarily have to go to court in order to agree on a workable parenting plan with your co-parent. Many divorcing spouses or former unmarried partners can avoid the cost of court by reaching an out-of-court agreement.
In other cases, though, the parents are not able to agree on a child custody arrangement, and it may be necessary for a court to intervene. Here let's discuss the process of petitioning for child custody in Florida.
If your divorce proceedings are already underway in court, then matters of child custody will be addressed there. The court will make a decision based on the best interests of the child.
However, if you are still married and your divorce is not being litigated, but you and your spouse can't agree on child custody, then one of you would file a child custody petition in the circuit court in the jurisdiction where your child lives.
As we discussed in a previous post, an unmarried father seeking custody may have to establish paternity with a DNA test. A court-ordered DNA test could establish a father's parental rights, as well as establish his obligation to pay child support.
In Florida, child custody laws presume that children benefit the most from having frequent and ongoing contact with both parents. However, a child custody order may grant more parenting time to one parent than to the other. If a post-divorce change in circumstances requires a modification of a support order, then the parent seeking the change can petition for a modification.
To learn more about changing or enforcing a child custody order after divorce, please see our modification and enforcement overview.