Child Custody in a Florida Divorce

Elrod & Elrod Has Been Helping Northeast Florida Families Since 1966

Child custody and child support are two of the most contentious issues among people filing for divorce in Florida.

When a Florida couple is seeking a divorce and has children, the court will make child custody and child support decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child.

How Does a Florida Court Analyze the “Best Interests” of a Child in a Florida Divorce?

While determining the best interests of the child can be difficult, the court will consider the following factors:

  • The physical and mental health of each parent
  • Religious and cultural consideration
  • The wishes of the child, when the child is old enough/mature enough
  • The support and opportunity for interaction with extended family members
  • The need for a stable home environment
  • For special needs children, the manner in which each parent addresses those needs
  • The age and sex of the child
  • The ability of the child to adjust to changes in school or community
  • The relationship of the child with siblings and other members of the household
  • Emotional abuse directed at the child by one parent
  • Any pattern of domestic violence, and
  • Evidence of parental drug, alcohol or child/sex abuse

A Florida domestic relations court will analyze these factors to make a decision about parental responsibility, also known as child custody, or how the parents will be responsible for the care, custody, control and maintenance of a minor (i.e. someone who is under the age of 18).

Types of Custody Arrangements

Legal custody, also known as “parental responsibility,” refers to which parent will make decisions regarding educational, religious, medical, and disciplinary issues.

Florida recognizes two types of custody arrangements: shared parenting (joint custody), where both parents have legal custody; or sole parental responsibility (sole custody), where one parent has custody.

Shared Parenting

Florida courts assume that both parents want to be involved in the life and upbringing of the child. Therefore, absent evidence to the contrary, a Florida domestic relations court will assume that both parents are equally interested in the child’s life and will award shared parental responsibility.

Under a shared parenting plan, both parents must approve all decisions related to the child. One parent is the primary residential parent, while the other parent has visitation rights. This allows the child to have a primary residence, school, and designated primary care physician.

Ideally parents are able to agree on most major decisions regarding their children. However, when parents cannot agree, the judge will decide.

Sole Custody

In a sole custody situation, one parent has legal and physical custody of the child, and the other parent will usually have visitation rights.

Parent Education and Family Stabilization

If you are seeking a divorce in Florida and have children under the age of 18, you will be required to complete an approved 4-hour Parent Education and Family Stabilization course that is designed to educate, train, and assist Florida parents in ways that minimize the emotional impact of divorce on you and your children. Each parent must take the course individually before the court will grant dissolution of marriage.

Contact Elrod & Elrod Today

The Jacksonville law firm of Elrod & Elrod has been helping people in the Florida metropolitan area since 1966. The firm proudly serves people throughout northeast Florida in Baker, Bradford, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Duval, Flagler, Hamilton, Marion, Nassau, Putnam, St.Johns, Sumter, Suwannee, and Union counties.

Contact Elrod & Elrod today by calling 904-356-1282, emailing, or completing our online form.