Generally, Florida family law favors joint custody of children. The policy behind the law is to allow both parents to share the rights, responsibilities, and joys of raising the children. However, in some cases joint custody will not be in the best interests of a child, nor the child’s preference in custody. In these instances, it is important to hire an experienced child custody attorney in Tampa to advocate for you and your child’s rights. Child custody disputes can be very stressful, these matters are extremely important and the outcome will have a long-lasting effect on a family.
Generally, a Florida family law court will grant shared parental responsibility (joint custody) unless the court determines that it will be detrimental to the child’s interests. Florida courts have even gone as far as placing an obligation on parents to encourage a positive relationship between the child and other parent. See Schutz v. Schutz. When ruling on a child’s preference in custody, the judge will make his/her determination based on the best interests of the child. The court will consider many factors when trying to determine what is in the best interests of the child. Some of the common factors considered are:
- The child’s preference in custody
- Mental and physical health of both parents
- Any prior domestic violence allegations or charges
- Relationship the child has with each parent
- The parent’s ability to provide a stable living situation for the child
- The geographic location of each parent
- The parent’s work schedules
Can a Child’s Preference in Custody be Explained by the Child?
Under Florida family law, minor children may not be a witness or attend a child custody hearing without prior court approval. See Florida Family Law Rule of Procedures 12.407. The parent wishing to have a child provide testimony must make a motion with the court and then conduct a hearing on the motion. At the hearing, the judge will consider all relevant factors on whether or not there is good cause to allow the child to testify as a witness. If granted, the judge may allow the minor to testify about the child’s preference in custody.
If the court does allow the child to testify as a witness about the child’s preference in custody, it will typically be an in-camera examination. An in-camera examination will typically take place in the judge’s office without the parents present. In-camera examinations are private, the public will not be allowed to attend. However, a court reporter will be permitted to attend the examination. The court reporter will transcribe the examination and make the record available to the parents for use at a future court hearing. If the judge refuses to allow a court reporter to be present during the examination, it may be grounds for an appeal. See Hickey v. Burlinson.
Child’s Preference in Custody Modification Cases
The testimony of a minor regarding the child’s preference in custody may be permitted in both original child custody cases and child custody modifications. A child custody order or parenting plan can be modified if there has been a substantial, unanticipated change in circumstances and the proposed change is in the child’s best interest. For more information on how to modify an existing Florida child custody order contact a Tampa child custody lawyer for assistance.
Tampa Child Custody Law Firm
If you are in the middle of a child custody dispute or have a question about Florida law regarding a child’s preference in custody, contact Florida Law Advisers for help. When you work with a Tampa child custody attorney at Florida Law Advisers you can count on the support you deserve, as well as strong advocacy of your rights in these important matters. We understand how important child custody disputes are and our professional team is 100% committed to resolving your case in a stress free and efficient manner. Call us today at 800 990 7763, we are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and offer a free initial consultation.