How can I get sole custody of my child?

Question: Can I file for sole custody w/ visitation after their father gets mental help? Can I motion for him to pay my legal fees?

My situation is I was going through many hardships and decided that because my children's father was more financially stable that it would be a good idea, at the time, to them live with him in Jacksonville while I get my life back on track. Now, almost 5 years later, I have difficulty getting any time with them and he does not parent them accordingly such as ensuring what/when/where they are, personal hygiene, life facts, problem solving, etc. They are crying out for help in many ways. I would like them to live with me. Their father is very abusive and has done so to me and them in the past. I have documentation of a few of these accounts. He also isolated me from friends and family and will not let me take my children to see their grandmother on my side because of her "past". In the past, I have found that he is very manipulative. I fear that he is doing this to my kids along with keeping them busy with hectic school/sports schedules. Also, that he is abusing them in many of the ways that he has done me. I thought that once I left his anger issues would end. I fear that they haven't.

Attorney Robert Elrod, Jr's Answer: Yes, you can request sole custody (we use different legal terminology in Florida however) and ask the court to give the father supervised timesharing only after a psychiatric evaluation is conducted of him by a qualified mental health professional. Of course, the Court will have to approve this but if you have sufficient evidence this may be granted. A critical question is whether or not there is a Parenting Plan already in place and whether or not you were married to the father. This determines how you proceed going forward. Finally, the Court can order that a party who makes more money pay the attorney's fees and costs of the other party but most attorneys would want the client to make some payments first (and some will accept payment plans). I will be happy to answer any other questions which you may have.