Family Law FAQs
People going through a family law dispute often have questions about Florida law and how it applies to their situation. Sandy T. Fox is a Florida Bar Board Certified specialist in Marital & Family Law. He can help you develop a strategic course of action for your unique circumstances. Here are some answers to common questions in this area of law.
Determining child custody in Florida involves setting up a parenting plan that is based on the best interests of the child. The court will strive to create a parenting plan that encourages the child to maintain a loving, healthy relationship with both parents. Certain factors may lead the court to restrict a parent’s rights, however. Examples of factors that the court will consider include the physical and mental health of each parent, the wishes of the child if he or she is old enough to express an opinion, the need to maintain a stable home environment, any special needs that the child may have, and any relationships that the child has with other members of his or her household.
Under Florida law, an unmarried father does not possess any rights to his child until paternity is established. An unmarried mother will have sole rights to the child. An unmarried father can petition the court to establish paternity. Simply listing the father’s name on the birth certificate is not enough to establish paternity. One way to establish paternity is for the mother and the father to sign a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity, stating that the man is the child’s legal father. Otherwise, the court can order a genetic test to determine paternity.
Child support is determined in Florida according to an income shares model. This process requires the court to estimate the amount of money that the parents would have spent on the child had they remained married. The amount is divided between the parents based on each parent’s individual income. The Florida Child Support Guidelines are codified at Florida Statutes Section 61.30 and provide presumptive guidelines for the court to follow. This means that the court will award the amount provided by the guidelines in most situations. The court has some flexibility in applying the guidelines and can set the child support amount at 5 percent above or below the amount provided by the guidelines. If the court deviates beyond the 5 percent range, it must make a written finding justifying the larger deviation.
A parent can be found unfit in Florida pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 751.05. A parent who has abused, neglected, or abandoned a child may lose their parental rights, and so may a parent who has a long-standing history of drug or alcohol abuse. This determination is not meant to suggest that the parent is a bad person but instead reflects the potential dangers of placing the child in the care of someone who may exhibit dangerous, erratic, or neglectful behavior. Another basis for being deemed unfit is making false accusations of abuse, which are viewed as harmful to the child as well as the accused party. An unsafe or unsanitary home or attempts to alienate the child from the other parent by speaking poorly about the other parent to the child are additional grounds for being deemed unfit.
A child can refuse to see a parent under Florida law at the age of 18. Until then, the child does not have the right to choose which parent will live with them. However, a court that devises a parenting plan will evaluate the wishes of the child if he or she is old enough to express an opinion about where he or she would prefer to live. If your child is subject to a parenting plan, you are required to abide by the terms of the arrangement, even if your child does not wish to visit the other parent.
If you are dealing with a family law matter, Sandy T. Fox is available to assist you with determining the right steps to take. He can help you ensure that you are making well-considered decisions during a time when emotions may be running high. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 1-800-596-0579 or contact us online to get started.