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Updates and Commentary For West Palm Beach and Surrounding Areas

Alternatives to Sole Custody

Generally, Florida family law courts are going to try and create a time-sharing plan that is in the best
interests of the child(ren) involved, and will try and create as equal a time-sharing plan as possible. This
way, each parent can have equal time parenting their children. There are some parents, however, that may not want as much time with their children, or parents who do not want the other parent to have as much time. As “sole custody” is no longer a term or concept in Florida, this is generally not an option without extremely dire circumstances. But, if both parents agree and negotiate together, a plan that approximates the concept of sole custody can be created and accepted by the Florida courts. The family law court will look at parenting plans that are created and agreed upon by the parents, and as long as they both sign off and agree on the amount of time each parent has with the child, then the courts will generally sign off as well. It is recommended though that if a parenting plan is negotiated in which one parent has considerably less time than the other, that the parent with more time makes sure to set certain criteria in the parenting plan should the parent with less time decide they want to modify the parenting plan later.

Normally, these provisions lead to some kind of financial consequence should the other parent attempt to make modifications, which can help deter unwanted or frivolous changes. Dependency Court is something that exists in every Florida county, and comes into play when children are removed from abusive or neglectful parents, or who have been abandoned by their parents. In many cases, Child Protective Services (CPS) gets involved in these situations. Safety of the children being paramount to any decisions made, it is not rare to see the Dependency Court move quickly and assuredly to remove a child from dangerous conditions, and they will not easily give the child back to the parent. This is to protect the health and safety of the child, and parents that have had their children taken away will generally need to complete a case plan involving classes and criteria that need to be completed before a parent is even allowed the most cursory of visits.

Dependency Court is one of the closest avenues for “sole custody” out there, as getting this court involved is a definite way of getting contact cut off between parent and child. A private attorney is critical for these cases, as the court appointed attorneys are generally overworked and underpaid, and rarely are able to efficiently handle their case loads.

It is not impossible for a parent to reopen a case for modification later, even if a final judgment has been
handed down from the court already. Florida family courts are always putting a child’s best interest first,
and feel that communication and time with both parents is what’s best, in most cases. As such, it can be
difficult and highly complex to attempt a parent from reopening a case for modification at any time. We
recommend keeping any evidence well-organized and making sure that you have a qualified Florida
family law attorney ready to assist you when you need them.