Child custody is one of the most complex issues in any divorce. The best interest of the child is always the main priority for the court, and there are many factors that influence a judge’s decision on how to divide up parental responsibility and time-sharing (formerly known as custody and visitation). Finding a good Child Custody attorney in Pensacola Florida can make all the difference.

Generally, courts favor both parents remaining active in the lives of their children. Parental responsibility refers to which parent has the legal right to decide major decisions such as healthcare, education, religion and activities. Time-sharing refers to how often each parent spends with their children. The old terminology of custody and visitation has been replaced by the term “parental responsibility and time-sharing” in Florida.

In addition to examining the best interests of your child, judges consider the current living situation, both parents’ health, and any other relevant circumstances in your case. For example, if one parent has a mental health problem or is actively using drugs and alcohol, the judge may limit their time-sharing with their children, even in cases where there is no evidence of abuse or neglect. The same is true if the child is exposed to domestic violence or physical abuse.

Fathers often feel that Florida laws are biased against them and that courts overwhelmingly favor mothers over them when it comes to caring for children, particularly during the child’s “tender years.” This is simply not true, although in some cases where there are concerns of abuse or neglect, a judge may order supervised visits, daytime visits, or no contact at all.

The vast majority of the time, the court will award both parents joint parental responsibility. In these cases, the parents will share in the daily responsibilities of raising their child. The parent who has the greater amount of time will make the day-to-day decisions such as when the child goes to school, what medical treatment is needed, and the religion the child will practice.

A good Florida family law attorney can help you develop a strong parenting plan, and can argue in favor of your rights when necessary. If your spouse does not cooperate, a lawyer can assist in enforcement of the custody and visitation agreement.

While it is rare for a parent to get sole custody, the fact is that if you can convince the judge that shared parental responsibility and time-sharing would be harmful to your child, the courts will allow this.

Depending on your situation, you may need to modify an existing custody agreement. If you have a new job or relationship, or have changed your living circumstances in some way, it’s important to speak with a Pensacola Florida Child Custody lawyer to discuss changing your agreement. Do not stop paying child support until you have a good reason for doing so; that could result in a denial of your modification request by the courts. The same is true for modifications of child visitation agreements, but you must prove a substantial change in circumstances.