Child Custody Issues During Divorce in Florida

Before checking the best child custody attorneys in Florida, Here is a quick fact about child custody and the court system. Pretty much common sense but sometimes overlooked. Everything you say in court is recorded, every affidavit, every argument in a motion, every exhibit submitted becomes part of the court record. There are exceptions, of course, juvenile proceedings, which are closed by law, and some cases can be sealed by judge’s order to protect various interests, privacy and or confidentiality.

Generally, however, according to child custody attorneys in Florida, everything in your custody case is available for anyone to see. If for instance someone for whatever reason is interested in the sordid details between the two parties. It is a very simple thing to access these records (public). Let’s say that you are getting a divorce in Florida, and can not agree on child custody. Both you and your ex-want primary custody, or sole custody, and after let’s say 11 years of being together you just flat out hate each other. You want to raise your children with very little visitation by your ex.11 years is a lot of time to accumulate ammunition.

 What should you tell the judge about your ex? Most first impulses will be. 10 years ago she left the children alone to go to the store to buy more alcohol and her sister was arrested for drugs 9 years ago so I don’t want the children around them and so on. You could really lay it all out for the court, and for everyone else who will read your file. Including possibly your children someday. There are lawyers who do recommend a massive character assassination. After all, if your ex actually did these things, then you might have legitimate concerns. The ability to parent, substance-abuse issues, destructive behavior.

I believe that dredging up a lifetime of baggage does neither of the parties any good! After 11 years of marriage, one parent may be really angry, and is going to bring up a lot of irrelevant, highly subjective, unproven, and embarrassing information in an attempt to demean the other parent. That is a pretty crappy thing to do and does not bode well for the kids or the custody case.

Out of all the garbage that the parent wants to talk about, the only thing that is relevant is what is in the best interest of the children! It is far better to take the high road. Stick to the recent facts, and track statutory criteria used by every judge in every custody determination.

  • What is in the best interest of the children?
  • Who is able and willing to meet the children’s needs?
  • Who can offer stability and safety?
  • Who encourages a relationship between the children and the other parent?

who can answer the above questions with a good answer tend to win child custody. Attorneys who use such questions as guidelines in arguing their client’s cases tend to win as well. That is not to say that highlighting inappropriate conduct on the other party’s part is not sometimes necessary, or that it should never be done.

Whose Last Name Should Your Children Have After A Florida Divorce?

As part of a Florida divorce, a wife who took her husband’s name when they got married can take back her former name.  But what about the children?  Whose last name should they have?

There is now a case before the Florida Supreme Court which may answer that question, once and for all.

When Mr. Emma and Ms. Evans married and had children, the children were given their father’s last name of Emma.  When the parents divorced in Florida, they agreed that they would have joint legal custody of the children, but Ms. Evans was named as “the primary residential/physical custodian” and Mr. Emma was named “the alternate residential parent.”

As part of a motion he filed for divorce in Florida, the father notified the court that in school and health insurance records, his ex-wife had said that the children’s last name was “Evans-Emma,” and he asked that she be prohibited from doing that.

The mother responded by asking the court to change the children’s last name to her last name.  The trial judge agreed to her request, because she was the parent of primary residence.

The father appealed.  The Florida Appellate Division reversed the trial judge’s decision, noting that there should not be a presumption in favor of giving children their custodial parent’s last name when they were given their last name by their married parents at birth.

Among the reasons the Appellate Division gave for its decision was that when the parents divorced, they agreed to share joint legal custody and that they therefore recognized that neither one of them possessed a superior right on that important issue.

The fact that the Florida Supreme Court granted the father’s Petition to consider the case does not necessarily mean that it must issue a full Opinion.  The Florida Supreme Court could simply adopt the Appellate Division’s Decision.

However, regardless of how it is decided, the Florida Supreme Court’s Decision could have an impact on Florida divorce cases, including each parent’s decision about whether to seek joint or sole legal custody of his/her children as part of the divorce.

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