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Tennessee Child Custody Laws

Child custody is all about the kids!  Tennessee courts are required to make all child custody decisions based upon the best interest of the minor child.  When courts determine child custody issues, the judge is required to do a comparative fitness test based upon a number of custody criteria. We view all of our child custody cases as unique, and our investigators are committed to do our best to obtain your desired outcome in your child custody.

Child Custody Basics

Tennessee no longer uses the word custody; the current legal terms are Primary Residential Parent (PRP) and Alternate Residential Parent (ARP)  The PRP is the parent with “primary custody” and the ARP is the parent with “visitation.”  Tennessee courts are required to name a PRP, and are also required to maximize the number of days with the ARP.  The court’s decision as to the PRP is generally made based on which parent has been the primary care giver to the minor children.  The number of days that court awards to the ARP is often determined by the parent’s work schedules.  The law requires that the determination of PRP and ARP be made based upon the best interests of the child.

Initial Custody Determination

At the initial custody determination, the judge is required to perform a comparative fitness test.  The court looks at numerous legal factors, compares the fitness of each parent to the other parent.  The court is required to name the parent with whom the children will reside most of the time, and determine a residential schedule for the other parent.  The court will then fashion a Permanent Parenting Plan which will address all issues regarding the minor children.

Modification of Permanent Parenting Plan

Modification of a Permanent Parenting Plan (PPP) is more complicated to explain than the initial custody determination.  A PPP can be modified by agreement of both parents.  If the other parent will not agree to modify the residential schedule, the court can modify the PPP if there is a material change of circumstances and the modification is in the best interest of the minor children.  Before the court will modify a PPP, Tennessee law requires that you and the other parent go to mediation.  If the court finds that there has been a material change of circumstance and that the change directly affects the best interests of the minor child, the court is required to modify the PPP in such a way as to maximize the best interest of the minor children.

Alabama Child Custody Laws

In Alabama, as in most states, courts decide custody issues based on the best interests of the child. Court cases lay out a series of factors the court should consider in making this decision. And, Alabama statutes list an additional set of factors courts must look at when deciding whether to award joint custody.

This article answers some common questions about custody determinations in Alabama. For all of our articles on divorce issues in Alabama, see our Alabama Divorce and Family Law page.

How will the Court determine where my children should reside after the divorce?

Under Alabama law, at the time of a divorce, both parents have an equal right to the custody of their children. If you and your spouse can’t agree on a custody arrangement, the court will look at the best interests of your children in determining where they should live after the divorce. There are many factors that go into this determination, and much will depend on the individual facts of your case.

What factors will the court consider in deciding custody?

Most states have statutes that set out the factors a court must look at when deciding custody issues. In Alabama, however, these factors are set out in court cases. The factors a court may consider include, among other things:

  • the child’s age and gender
  • the child’s needs
  • the age, character, stability, health, capacity, and interest of each parent in meeting the child’s needs
  • the relationship between the child and each parent
  • the home environment each parent can offer, and
  • the child’s preference, if the child is of sufficient age and maturity to offer one.

How does joint custody work?

Under Alabama law, the court must presume that it is in the best interests of the child to have continuing and frequent contact with both parents. If parents are granted joint legal custody, it means they share the right to make important decisions about their children, such as where the child will go to school, whether the child will be raised in a particular religion, and so on.

If the parents share joint physical custody, it means the children will reside with each parent part of the time. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean the children will spend exactly half the year with each parent.

Does the court always award joint custody?

No. If one parent has committed serious misconduct (for example, domestic abuse), the court is likely to award the other parent sole custody. Even if neither parent has engaged in this kind of extreme behavior, the court must consider whether joint custody will work, as a practical matter. The court will look at:

  • whether the parents agree that joint custody is the best arrangement
  • whether the parents have shown that they are able to cooperate and work together
  • whether each parent is able and willing to foster a positive relationship between the child and the other parent
  • any history of inappropriate behavior by either parent, and
  • the physical proximity of the parents’ homes.

Will the Court appoint a lawyer to represent my children in the divorce? If so, who pays that lawyer?

If the rights or interests of your children are in contention, the court may determine that it is in their best interests to have an attorney appointed to represent them. This attorney is known as a guardian ad litem (GAL). The GAL is appointed by the judge to represent the interests of your children only. Typically, you and your spouse will have to pay the GAL’s fee. A GAL is not necessary in every case involving children, only under certain circumstances when the rights or interests of the children are an issue in the case.

At what age can my children decide where they want to live?

Under Alabama law, the court always makes the decision regarding the custody of children. The Court may hear testimony from a child regarding that child’s wishes, but the court ultimately decides the issue. The child doesn’t get to choose where to live. 

If my spouse fails to pay child support, do I have to allow visitation?

Yes. Alabama courts treat support and visitation issues separately. Violation of either can subject a party to contempt of court.

If my spouse will not allow me to see my children, do I have to pay support?

Yes. You may seek to enforce the visitation order through a contempt of court proceeding, but you still have to pay your child support.

Georgia Child Custody Laws

Introduction to Custody and Visitation 

The question of “Who gets custody of the kids?” is one of the most difficult and often the most emotionally draining both for parents and their children, when spouses divorce. Custody and visitation are the legal terms in court ordered determinations of which parent the child lives with and the conditions for the child to visit the other parent. Custody and visitation are never considered to be final. In Georgia, the law does not favor either the mother or father. Rather, they look to the relationship of each parent with the child. While grandparents and others may seek custody, there is a presumption in favor of the natural parents. This section is designed to give you a general knowledge of the issues involved in determining the parties custody and visitation rights.

When should you have an attorney?

In the event that you have a highly volatile, hostile or contested custody issue you should seek out a lawyer to represent you. Additionally, if the other parent is using the services of an attorney, it is advisable that you also have an attorney.

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Jurisdiction is the imaginary fence that separates the subjects one court hears from another. There are two types of jurisdiction: personal and subject matter. The court must have both types of jurisdiction to hear a case. Personal jurisdiction, the power to require a person to appear in court, is discussed in the Service of Process section of this Web site. To have jurisdiction over your specific custody or visitation case the court will require one of the following: [Georgia has statutory guidelines for determining custody].

  • Georgia is the home state of the child (lives in state, goes to school in state) and the parent has sufficient contact with the state (works, votes, lives, pays taxes in Georgia).

  • Georgia was the child’s home state within the last six months and the parent filing for custody continues to live in Georgia and the child is absent from the state because another person took them out of Georgia claiming custody.

  • The child and at least one of the parents have significant connection with Georgia (live, work, go to school here) and in Georgia there are more records and witnesses to give evidence of the child’s present or future care, protection, training and personal relationships.

  • The child is physically present in Georgia and was abandoned or emergency protection is necessary (the child was threatened or subjected to abuse or neglect).

  • No other state would have jurisdiction based on 1,2,3, or 4 above.

  • Another state says Georgia has jurisdiction.

  • Child was removed from Georgia and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act does not apply and no other state has jurisdiction, then Georgia will have jurisdiction if:

    • Georgia was where the married couple lived, paid taxes, voted, etc., but the parents are now currently separated or divorced or Georgia was where the marriage contract was last performed.

    • One parent is a resident of Georgia and was a resident when the child was removed.

    • Court has personal jurisdiction over the parent who has removed the child.

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) has been adopted by Georgia, as well as the other 49 states. This act gives jurisdiction for custody cases to the location that is most closely associated with the child. Within Georgia, the Circuit Court has jurisdiction to hear child custody cases. That court has the power to override any agreement if they believe the agreement is not in the best interest of the child.

If you do not understand what you have just read or are not sure if the court will have jurisdiction to hear your case, you should consult an attorney.

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Unmarried Cohabitants

If the parents are unmarried, the child is the child of his/her mother. In order for the father to assert rights to the child (including rights to custody or visitation), paternity must be admitted or established in court. Paternity can be established by: judicial determination of paternity; father’s acknowledgment of paternity in writing; father’s open and notorious recognition of the child as his own; or by marrying the mother and then acknowledging himself as the father, either in writing or orally. In order for a father to bring suit to establish paternity by judicial determination, he should file an action for “filiation”; but, this is not required to seek custody if any of the other three methods has established paternity. Once paternity is established, neither party will be given a preference based solely on the gender.  If you are seeking to establish paternity, consult an attorney.
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What if we agree about custody and visitation? 

If you and the other parent have already come to a fair agreement on the custody and visitation issue, you may want to write your own stipulation and consent order. A stipulation is a statement of the settlement that you have reached. It is accompanied by a consent order for the judge to give the agreement the power of a court decision.

If you choose to go this route, you and the other parent should be as specific as you can to avoid future conflicts. Who has legal custody? Which holiday does the child spend with you? What time and where may the other parent pick the child up? What time should the child be returned home? What is the procedure to follow if either of you are running late and won’t be there on time? How much notice should you be given if they are planning a vacation? How far away may the other spouse move? What you might think you can figure out as you go along could actually blow up into a full scale war later. The Stipulations should state everything that you have agreed upon. You should not rely on any oral promises. If you both agreed on it, write it down (no matter how trivial it may seem now).

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What if we disagree about custody and visitation? 


If you and your spouse are having trouble reaching an agreement, you should consider mediation. You may have heard the term mediator used in news reports about labor negotiations or the 1994 baseball strike. A mediator specializes in helping people reach an agreement that is fair and will last. The sessions are confidential and are not reported to the court. A mediator’s role may be limited to custody or may also cover other issues such as marital property if you choose. Mediation is not an option that is appropriate in cases where there is a genuine issue of physical or sexual abuse of the child or one of the parties. It is also important to get a legal advisor for this process. The mediator’s role is not to take sides, but to bring the two sides together. Additionally, if the mediator is not an attorney, he/she may be unaware of some specific legal issues.

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What does the word “custody” mean? legal v. physical? joint v. sole? shared? 

Types of Custody 

Temporary Custody

De facto (means in fact) custody refers to who actually has custody of the child at this time. This does not carry the weight of the court behind it. In order to formalize custody before you begin litigation, one should file a motion for Pendente Lite (meaning pending litigation) or temporary custody. Temporary custody is subject to review based on the “best interests” of the child standard, to be discussed below. It is not an “initial” award of custody because it is understood to be temporary pending a full hearing. In order to be awarded temporary custody you must file a request for hearing and an order for temporary custody and support along with your Complaint for Custody or Divorce.

Sole Custody

Custody is made up of: legal custody and physical custody. A person with legal custody has the right to make long range plans and decisions for the education, religious training, discipline, non-emergency medical care and other matters of major significance concerning the child’s welfare. A person with physical custody has the child living primarily with them and they have the right to make decisions as to the child’s everyday needs. Sole Custody is when both legal and physical custody are given to one parent. The child has only one primary residence.

Split Custody

Split custody is easiest to describe in a situation where there are two children and each parent obtains full physical custody over one child. Some of the considerations that may bring about this result are age of the children and child preference.

Joint Custody

Joint Custody is actually broken down into three categories. Joint Legal custody is where the parents share care and control of the upbringing of the child, but the child has only one primary residence. In Shared Physical Custody the child has two residences, spending at least 35% of their time with the other parent. Additionally, you can make your own special joint custody agreement that is any combination of Shared Physical and Joint Legal Custody. One example of this is when there is one residence for the child and the parents live with the child there on a rotating basis.

In order to assure the best interests of the child the court looks very closely at Joint Custody agreements. The most important factor to Joint Legal Custody that is also very relevant to Shared Physical Custody is the ability of the parents to talk about and reach joint decisions that affect the child’s welfare. If you are constantly fighting over what religion or what school, the court may strike down your agreement. Other factors include: willingness to share custody; fitness; child’s relationships with parents; child’s preference; ability to stabilize child’s school and social life; closeness to parent’s homes (primarily a factor during the school year) ; employment considerations (e.g. long hours, extensive travel, etc.); age and number of children; financial status; benefit to parent. Additionally, the sincerity of the parties involved is important. The court will want to make sure that joint custody isn’t being traded for concessions on other points. Another consideration is whether the grant of joint custody will affect any assistance programs. Currently, AFDC and Medical Assistance are affected based on the award of Joint Legal Custody. Be sure to check with your contact at any social service agencies before entering into an agreement or you may be jeopardizing your benefits. This list is not meant to be exhaustive and the court will hear anything that they believe to be relevant.
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The Best Interests of the Child Standard 

Regardless of any agreement you may have reached, the court’s standard for initially awarding custody is to determine the best interests of the child. In order to do this they look at several factors. It is important to remember, though, that no one factor carries any more weight than any other. The following list is some of the factors, but not all, that courts will consider.

Primary Care Giver

Who is the person who takes care of the child? Who feeds the child, shops for their clothes, gets them up for school, bathes them, and arranges day care? Who does the child turn to when they get hurt?


What are the psychological and physical capacities of the parties seeking custody? The court may also consider evidence of abuse by a party against the other parent, the party’s spouse, or any child residing within the party’s household (including another child).


Is there a custody stipulation already drawn up?

Ability to Maintain Family Relationships 

Who will be able to keep the child’s family most intact? Who is going to let the child speak with their ex-mother-in-law, for example? Who will not penalize the child for any adverse action on the part of the other parent.

Child Preference 

The decision of the court may be considered reversible error if they won’t hear the child’s preference. However, the court has the discretion to interview the child out of the parents’ presence. A child as young as 5 or 6 years of age may be heard. Though it is rare the court will hear from a child under 7 years, the child’s ability to tell the truth from fiction and maturity will be the guidelines for whether a child may be heard. A child of 10 or 12 years of age is certainly entitled to have their opinions heard and given weight in legal proceedings about custody. Additionally, the court has the power to appoint an attorney for the child in contested cases.

Material Opportunity 

Which parent has the financial resources to give the child more things?

Residences of Parents and Opportunity for Visitation

How close do the parents live to each other? How close do they live to members of the child’s extended family? Which parent lives closest to the child’s school and social circle? 

Any Prior Abandonment or Surrender of Custody 

Is there a history of one parent walking out and leaving the other parent to cope with the child and the home? Which parent left when you last broke up?

Religious Views 

These will bear on the court’s decision only if shown to affect the physical or emotional well being of the child.

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Visitation is the part of the court order that defines the conditions for the non-custodial parent to have contact with the child. Visitation is limited by legal custody being vested in the other parent. This means that your visitation does not give you the authority to conflict with the long range decisions and policies of the parent with legal custody. For example, if the parent with legal custody has decided to raise the child in the Jewish tradition, the parent with visitation rights may not take the child to be baptized in a Catholic church.

Even in cases of abuse, the only reported cases have upheld supervised visitation. Supervised visitation is when the parent is only allowed to visit with the child in the company of another person. This person is usually a friend or relative that the two parents agree will be allowed to act as a chaperon. Supervised visitation often calls for a restriction of visitation to a particular location and time.

Who can be awarded visitation? Obviously a biological parent can be awarded visitation. Additionally, grandparents (even when the parents weren’t married or are not currently divorced) and step-parents may be awarded visitation rights in Georgia.. While there are no reported cases of brothers or sisters being given visitation, a strong argument could be made that it would be in the best interest of the child.

When can visitation be denied? The court has the power to deny visitation. Normally the court will only stop visitation for a certain time or until a certain task is performed. For example, the court has previously stayed visitation until the parent met their financial obligation. If your spouse should deny you court ordered visitation, you first file for a modification of visitation for a more definite schedule, before filing a contempt action.  Many parents feel they have the right to stop paying child support, but they are wrong. Withholding of child support will only get you in trouble and possibly arrested.

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When the Custody Order Agreement is Violated

People go into courthouses everyday telling clerks that the parent has not returned the child at the scheduled time following visitation and they don’t know what to do. When a custody order is violated the law requires the custodial parent/lawful custodian to first demand the return of the child.

If the child has actually been stolen by the other parent you should report this to your local police department immediately. The FBI can be called in to find the fugitive parent and the child as well.

The only exception to this rule is when the child is in clear and present danger (the victim of abuse or abandonment) requiring the noncustodial parent to save them. The noncustodial parent must be ready to prove this clear and present danger and they are required by Georgia law to file a petition within 96 hours. In that event, both parents will need a lawyer.

Once an incident like this has happened, you may want to consider modifying the custody order.

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Modification of Custody

When a parent seeks to have the custody order changed, it is his/her burden to show the court why it should be changed. The court follows the old notion of, “if it isn’t broke don’t fix it.” This is based on the idea that stability is best for the child unless you can show that there is something in the environment that will adversely impact on the well being of the child. This is not as simple as it may seem. The factor(s) in the environment have to not just make your home as good as the custodial parents, but better. To do this you must show that there has been a substantial change in circumstances and that it is in the child’s best interests to make the change you are proposing. If the two homes are thought to be equal, then custody will stay as it is. Remember, a temporary or pendente lite custody order is not a final order. You would not be required to show a substantial change in circumstances to have custody changed in the “permanent” custody order.

A child at least 16 years of age can seek a change in custody on his/her own. However, it will be the minor’s burden to prove that a change of custody would be in his/her best interests at this time.

The court that made the original custody and visitation order retains jurisdiction to decide modification unless the parties and child no longer have close ties to the court and the court surrenders its jurisdiction. However, the court with original jurisdiction may refuse to hear the custody case if a child has been wrongfully taken from another state or taken without the consent of the person entitled to custody.

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Usually the parent with custody can claim the exemption for the child. However, the parents may agree to claim the child exemption on alternate years. In that case, the parent with custody needs to sign IRS Form 8322, Release of Claim to Exemption. Whether or not you are taking the exemption for the child, you may still file as “head of household.”

Florida Child Custody Laws

The issue of child custody is an emotionally-challenging one for couples who have decided to part ways. To help understand how courts view custody decisions, and how to prepare for your case, it is best to understand essential legal factors governing custody. It will also be useful to learn how to handle younger kids who will  have to adjust to a new parenting pattern.

child custody in floridaFlorida has all but eliminated the term custody. The right term to use is ‘time sharing’ Right off the bat, the term ‘custody’ is a misnomer as far as Florida statutes go. Time Sharing is the concept where each parent gets to spent a certain designated amount of time with his or her child. It is initially left to parents to decide on a certain time sharing schedule. Obviously this is impossible in a highly contested case. If the parents cannot agree on a time schedule then ultimately  the court decides for them.

The time sharing schedule decided by the court must be determined according to the child’s best interests, and in accordance with the Florida Statutes (61.13). The time sharing awarded to parents corresponds with the outdated concept concept of custody.  The parent that ends up with the lion’s share of parenting time is referred to as the “majority parent.”

The “Child’s Best Interests” is the actual legal standard that every court must use. If you are headed into a contested custody case, it is always a good idea to look at the statutory factors and compare them to your personal situation. Florida statute 61.13(3) defines the factors a judge must consider.



The custody factors specific in Florida law include and are not limited to:


–       The parent who is more likely to allow continuing and frequent contact with the parent who lives away (“non residential parent”).  **This is probably the most important factor. In other words – if you continually interfere with the bond between the kids and the other parent, you will be the disfavored parent in the custody decision.

–       The capacity of the parent to provide the child with food, medical care, clothing, and other remedial care. **This is a no-brainer to figure out. But courts will not interpret this to favor the parent with more money.  The bottom line is that each parent must have the capability of taking care of their children.

–       The love, affection and emotional ties that exist between child and parents.  **Hopefully you are fighting for your children because of your strong bond with them.

–       The parents’ moral fitness, mental health and physical health.  This factor is self-explanatory.  **No sex on the carpet in front of the kids. And hopefully no history of Baker Acts.

–       The child’s school, home and community record. **This factor can go against a parent not adequately supervising the school involvement of their child.

–       The time for which the child has lived in a satisfactory and stable environment, and if it is desirable for him/her to continue living in this environment. **This factor allows the judge to look at the history and whether that pattern has worked for the child.

–       If the child is deemed to possess sufficient intelligence, experience and understanding in expressing a preference, then his/her reasonable preference will be taken into account. **This factor is completely over-rated. With rare exceptions, most judges will not listen to the preference of children.

–       Evidence of child abuse or domestic violence.  **This is huge. You will be at a disadvantage if you have a track record of domestic violence.

–       Evidence that the party knowingly furnished false information regarding a domestic violence proceeding, to the court.  **This does not frequently come into play.

–       Other factors that the court may deem to be relevant.  **This factor is a catch all that allows the judge to look at many different facts.

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The basics of child support and visitation


Child support is a critical component of any case involving minor children. Generally, the parent who has majority time sharing receives child support, and the other parent pays child support.  But there are some situations where that is not an absolute rule.  Florida Statutes define a mechanism to calculate child support. The central tool is called the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet.

The Child Support Guidelines Worksheet establishes child support obligations for a child visitationspecific amount. It is calculated on the basis of factors such as percentage of time sharing, income, daycare costs, uncovered medical expenses and health insurance. The primary fact used to calculate child support is the gross income of both parents. Florida Statute 61.30 (2)(a) defines gross income to include wages, salary, allowances, bonuses, commissions, tips, overtime, business income, various government payments, retirement, social security, annuity payments and pension and spousal support from a previous marriage. Passive income from stock dividends, property rents, and income from estates or trusts, may also be considered. Normally, the income from a new spouse does not become part of the calculation.


Supervised Parenting Time


There are rare cases where the judge may order no parenting time or supervised parenting time. This is an unusual outcome because Florida public policy and custody law encourage the frequent contact and participation by both parents in the lives of their children.  This type of decision is usually made when the child’s safety and security  in mind. Parents who are known to be alcohol abusers, drug addicts, suffer from mental disorders, have been violent towards others, or found to have neglected their children may come under the category of supervised or restricted visitation rights. On those rare occasions the judge may require evaluations of either parent or the kids by an outside professional.  In extreme situations the judge may also call for intervention by child protection services.


 Grandparent Rights


A new Florida law gives grandparents rights to time-sharing and visitation if one of the parents is deployed or temporarily assigned to military service for a tenure exceeding 90 days. In such a situation, the parent may designate a grandparent or other family member to take up time-sharing on his/her behalf.  There are other possibilities for grandparents but they are not easy options. One option is under a special Florida Statute called Temporary Custody by Extended Family Members.  This provision of the law can give grandparents rights under certain specific circumstances.  Another statute that allows child protective services to remove children from potentially abusive homes is another possible option for grandparent rights.


What is a parenting plan?


A parenting plan is established by the court in all cases that involve custody decisions. The plan basically specifies how the parents will look after their children after the dissolution of their marriage, or paternity case is over. The various provisions in the plan include the general and holiday time-sharing schedule, child care, education, extra-curricular activities, out-of-state/out-of-country travel, and any other provisions needed to govern the life of the children.


It is best to develop a parenting plan that is simple, practical and as well-defined as it can be. Parents with more than one child can create different custom parenting plans, use just one plan, or make some modifications to the main plan to better reflect the parenting of each of their kids. The plan can be changed at any time, with the consent of both parents. One frequent issue is that parenting plans were not designed to accommodate the inevitable changes as a child gets older.  Unless the parents are able to properly communicate, that one fact tends to cause continued litigation.


Do courts favor mothers over fathers?


A look at past cases reveals that courts may prefer to grant majority time sharing to mothers, especially if the children are very young or in their ‘tender years’. Florida courts, have however, done away with the doctrine of ‘tender years’ and do not favor either parent based on gender.


Regardless of the fast-disappearing gender bias, parents seeking to win majority time sharing must understand what can prompt a judge  to pronounce a decision in their favor. Of course, the factors that go into this decision are many and varied. It is important to take a strategic view of each factor to develop a plan that assures a high rate of success.


Can you improve your chances of winning majority time sharing?


Most cases are decided directly by the judge based on parent-testimony, evidence, and witnesses.  It all comes down to the factors shown above. The judge will form a personal opinion of who prevails in each factor based on exactly what is presented in court.

timesharingOccassionally a court appointed expert will assist the judge in coming to a decision. The “expert” can take the form of a Guardian Ad Litem, a Social Investigator, or a Psychologist serving as a Custody Evaluator. Every Court-appointed expert will be looking for genuine feelings and intelligent decision-making from parents. They will have a favorable view of individuals who want their spouse to be a part of their children’s lives. A hostile approach towards the spouse may work against the individual’s favor. The children should lie at the heart of all the decisions made by either parent. Individuals who do not place their kids’ interests before their own feelings and prejudices risk losing majority time sharing.


Another key factor is, of course, the competence of the parents in bringing up their kids. Either the judge or the court-appointed experts will decide who is the more nurturing, composed and competent of the two parents. In making this decision, he or she will look beyond income. Experts also look at how children respond during interviews and try to determine the preference for one parent. You should be careful not to coach your children into giving your preferred answers. That is a bad strategy which can backfire on you.


While you may not like what we’re about to suggest, it helps to consider it. You cannot keep your child completely away from your spouse; you must respect his/her right to be a parent. Your spouse may have been a terrible marital partner, but may have it in him or her to be a loving father/mother. By discounting this possibility, you deprive your child of love, care and guidance. If you have watched Oscar-winning movie Kramer vs. Kramer, put yourself in the shoes of Joanna Kramer. Her workaholic and inattentive husband proved to be a wonderful father, so much so, that she decided that their son would be better off with him. The takeaway is to not isolate your child from his father/mother unless there is a strong reason to do it. There are cases where parents have been able to reach amicable decisions on time sharing despite one of them having a lifestyle that the other frowned upon. The bottom line is, both parents are important to their children’s well-being. Differences in lifestyle, opinions or values cannot justify ending or severely limiting a parent’s participation in the lives of children.


On the flip side, if you have reasonable doubt to believe that your spouse may attempt to kidnap your child, you may be able to get a emergency temporary custody order. Your attorney will obtain an enforceable decree from court that specifies the temporary terms of custody. The decree can include a court order (“injunction”) that bans your spouse from removing your child from the state. If your spouse takes your child, you can produce the injunction to the police to get their assistance in retrieving your child.


Don’t let ego get the better of you


By calmly negotiating with your spouse, you can do your bit to ensure an outcome that addresses the key objective of any custody case – being sensitive to your children’s emotional needs. Try your best to focus on common interests regardless of how horrible the atmosphere of your divorce proceedings gets. Don’t be fussy on points that don’t really make a difference in the big picture. Let go of your ego, don’t lose sight of fairness, and zero in on a workable plan that does not compromise on your children’s happiness.


Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should take whatever your spouse throws at you. If he or she is resorting to dirty tactics such as concealing income to lower child support obligations, this decision is being taken at the expense of your child’s well-being. In such a situation, you must fight aggressively to help ensure a fair outcome.


Keeping the truth away from your children


You can no longer share the same roof as your spouse. Matters have become so serious that you are considering either divorce, or a split from your significant other. But what about your kids – should you wait before talking to them? The first instinct of separating parents is to hide the painful situation from their kids as long as is possible. Some even go so far as to act like everything’s okay, when the actual reality is far from it. You should refrain from keeping your child in the dark. Why? Because, sooner or later, the truth will come out, and most certainly cause your child a lot of pain. More pain than if you had told your child about your situation right away. You are essentially breaking the trust that your child has taken for granted, and rightly so. By revealing the breakdown of your relationship at a later stage to your children, you compel them to cope with the unpleasantness of the situation, and you maximize mistrust and self-doubt. You are unknowingly teaching your children to be deceitful themselves.


In your efforts to conceal your divorce, you will no doubt end up telling many lies to your kids. So, it’s not only about being evasive or brushing off the subject but also about fibbing in the fear that the truth may be too hard to hear. By doing this, you are only confusing your children, and in some cases, you may also make them feel guilty about their role in the scheme of things. Your adolescent or teen may feel that he or she is, in some way, responsible for the breakdown of your marriage.


Having the talk


Your kids should be able to interpret the reality, and there are some reasonably good ways to break the news to them. Here are some points you may find useful:


  1. Come out to your kids as a couple. Even if you are barely on talking terms withtalking with children your spouse, spare some time to agree on points you will discuss with your kids when you have the talk.
  2. There’s nothing worse than criticizing your spouse or blaming him or her for the separation, when you’re having the talk with your kids.
  3. State in clear terms why the two of you have decided to live apart. Adopt suitable language and reasoning – based on your children’s age – to get the message across in a way that does not cause them too much pain.
  4. It’s inevitable that your children may feel hurt and pained. For your part, avoid crying or becoming overly emotional.
  5. Tell your children that things will be different once the divorce or separation is settled. By preparing them for change early, you’ll help them settle in more easily and less painfully.
  6. It is important you reiterate that the divorce or separation has nothing to do with them. Kids tend to blame themselves for the situation – you must tell them that they have been wonderful and are in no way responsible.


Keep your kids’ teacher, caregiver, baby-sitter, and your close friends in the loop about your  plans. They may be able to link any changes in your kids’ behavior to your situation, and inform you about the same in a timely manner.

Florida Child Custody Law

Child custody law in Florida is based on Florida Statutes, prior court decisions, and the general policy and attitudes of the courts. Custody and parenting decisions are based mainly on the “best interests of the child.”  That means the entire custody decision revolves around children’s interests – not parent’s interests.

The statute specifies a list of factors that every judge must consider in a parenting case. Consideration of each factor is mandatory and court orders normally specify facts supporting each factor.   A final custody order normally will show which parent prevailed for each factor.

child custody law