Father and Son playing basketball

Child Support and Custody Rights: What Every Father Should Know

When a family is divided through a divorce, separation, or other circumstances, there can be many questions about the best way to proceed. If there are children involved, the situation can be even more complex. 

There can be a lack of information available to fathers about their unique concerns and rights in child custody and support determinations. It is vital that you understand the legal entitlements of parents in custody and support matters before making any decisions that impact you and your children.   

How can a father get child custody in Florida?

In Florida, custody is referred to as time-sharing. It is a widespread misconception that the law favors mothers in time-sharing arrangements. There is no preference given to a mother when a court determines a parenting plan in Florida. Do not let this false idea influence you in your time-sharing negotiations.  

 When implementing a time-sharing schedule, a court’s main goal is to do what is in the child’s best interests. To evaluate what the child’s best interests are, a court considers:

  • The capability of each parent to create a close parent-child bond
  • Each parent’s potential to meet the child’s specific developmental needs
  • The historical and anticipated division of responsibilities between parents
  • A parent’s ability to put the child’s needs before their own
  • The length of time a child has lived in a stable environment
  • A parent’s awareness of the happenings in the child’s life (school activities, friends, favorite things, etc.)
  • The child’s preference (if the court considers the child can reasonably have a preference)
  • Each parent’s mental and physical health
  • Any evidence of domestic or sexual abuse or child neglect

 This is not a definitive list of the factors that go into a court’s decision on time-sharing arrangements. Ultimately, the court only uses these elements to conclude what will be best for the child or children.  

Can a time-sharing agreement be changed?

It might be challenging to negotiate a new arrangement if you have already agreed to a time-sharing schedule. According to Florida law, a court will only alter a parenting plan/time-sharing schedule if there is a substantial change in circumstances that impacts the child’s well-being. The parent who wants to modify the custody arrangement will have to prove to the court that there have been new developments that substantially affect the child’s best interests and those new developments were not contemplated during the original divorce proceedings. 

Calculating Child Support in Florida

The Florida Statutes lay out the groundwork for child support amount determinations. In addition to the statutory rules for establishing child support payments, a court can adjust the amount by five percent, depending on the facts of the case.

 When assigning child support payments, the monthly income of each parent is evaluated. Monthly income calculations will include:

  • Salary
  • Commissions
  • Bonuses
  • Business income (if self-employed)
  • Benefits (disability, worker’s compensation, and Social Security)
  • Pension payments
  • Rental income
  • Spousal support from previous marriages

 As the monthly income of each parent is the primary determining factor in child support payments, it is important to provide detailed information about a parent’s income so that the child support agreement is as fair as possible.

Once a parent’s monthly income is calculated, a court can apply the statutory guidelines to determine the monthly child support amount.  It’s important to understand incomes are based on actual incomes and in some circumstances a court will impute income on a party that is unemployed or underemployed and has the ability to work.  The Court will determine the amount to impute based on several factors, including but not limited to, a person’s education, past employment, when a party’s employment changed, and how long the person has been absent from the workforce.

Partner with an Orlando Father’s Rights Lawyer

If you are deciding on child time-sharing and support arrangements, a family law attorney can help you strategize the best course of action for your case and your children. Because of the emotional nature of family law matters, it is essential to find a lawyer who understands the unique considerations of child custody and child support decisions.

A divorce lawyer at Patriot Legal Group can work with you to protect the best interests of you and your child. We represent fathers throughout Orlando and the Central Florida area in determining appropriate time-sharing schedules and child support payments. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you in your divorce negotiations.