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Common misconceptions about child custody

Florida parents might think that if they cannot afford an attorney in a child custody case, they must represent themselves. However, the right to legal representation is not just for criminal cases. A court can appoint an attorney although a person is not required to use one.

A parent might also assume that if the other parent abandons the family, that parent forfeits custody. However, if one parent has left, the other parent still needs to go through the formal process of filing for custody.

Some parents may not fully understand what custody consists of. Physical custody refers to where the child spends the majority of their time while legal custody refers to decision-making power about issues such as the child's health and education. One parent could get physical custody while they share legal custody. The primary measure a judge uses to determine custody is the best interests of the child and not the gender of either parent, affluence or other factors. Showing willingness to compromise might make a court more likely to favor one parent for custody over the other, but a fit parent might still be denied custody. However, it is possible to appeal a judge's decision. A failure to pay child support does not put a parent's custody or visitation rights in danger.

Child custody negotiations can be a painful part of divorce for many parents. However, it is not always necessary to have a judge make a decision about these matters. Parents might negotiate an agreement between themselves with the help of their respective attorneys that is then approved by a court. This may include shared parenting arrangements instead of the child spending the majority of their time with one parent. A more amicable approach to the divorce may also help children adjust better.

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Brandon Family Law Center, LLC

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