"How do I get full custody of my children?" is a common battle cry of divorcees either because they are unhappy with the way the other parent conducts themselves (ie late night partying/indulging in destructive behaviors) or because of the company the other parent is keeping. Most are unhappy to learn that effective October 1, 2008, the term “custody" no longer exists in Florida law. Whether it be the wane of the traditional role of “Mother" and “Wife" or just the legislature’s recognition that a child is better off with two functional parents, the presumption now favors equal time-sharing between the parties.
Of course, the court has the discretion to restrict or deny time-sharing to a parent to protect the minor child. At the same time, the court has emphasized that visitation should not be conditioned or curtailed so long as parent conducts himself, while in the child’s presence, in manner that will not adversely affect the child’s emotional or moral well being. And that, much to many parents chagrin, has proven to be a pretty substantial threshold.
For example, a spouse may have been an alcoholic or substance abuser upon marriage. When the parties have children, this is a pre-existing condition. There are several issues to consider such as: how long in the past a crisis occurred, if there have been remedial measures by and stabilization of the impaired parent, and if there is an immediate emergency situation if the child is with the impaired parent. In the most extreme situations, when the child is put in danger, conditions still must be set for re-establishment of contact and rights. A party must be cautious in alleging the other parent is unfit for fear that the accusing parent failed to protect the child.
Whatever the situation, your child’s safety and well-being is no doubt your highest priority. It is important to find an attorney to guide you through the many nuances of parental responsibility and formulate a functioning parenting plan.