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When Do Florida Courts Award Sole Custody?


When marriages involving minor children end, the parties must address several issues regarding their children. One of them is making a parenting and visitation schedule. While Florida courts prefer to divide custody and parental responsibilities in an equal manner, there are situations in which a court may award sole custody to one of the parents.

If you want to fight for sole custody or fear that you could lose your custody rights during a custody battle, do not hesitate to contact an Orlando timesharing and parenting attorney. Your family law attorney will protect your interests and help you achieve a favorable outcome in your case.

How is Custody Determined in Florida Divorces?

While most states recognize two types of child custody – physical and legal – Florida refers to these two types of custody differently:

  1. Physical custody is called timesharing. This type of custody refers to how much physical time each parent spends with the kids.
  2. Legal custody is called parenting responsibility. This type of custody deals with parents’ ability to make decisions that affect their children, including decisions related to healthcare and education.

When seeking a divorce, both parties are required to agree to a parenting plan that outlines the parents’ timesharing and parenting responsibilities. Once they have the plan in writing, it will be submitted to the court for its approval.

Generally, Florida courts prefer giving equal custody rights to both parents. Fla. Stat. § 61.13 states that children should have “frequent and continuing contact with both parents.” However, there are situations in which a court may decide to award physical custody to one parent while allowing the other parent to visit the child if doing so is in the child’s best interests.

3 Situations When Florida Courts Award Sole Custody

While Florida courts presume that it is in the best interests of every child to have both parents remain equally active in the child’s life, joint custody awards are not appropriate in all situations. In some cases, a sole custody award is more appropriate.

There are three common situations in which a Florida court is likely to award sole custody to one parent:

  1. Domestic violence. If there is evidence that a parent has a domestic violence conviction – a first-degree misdemeanor or felony – the judge may rule that it would be in the child’s best interests to award sole custody rights to the other parent. The same can be said about convictions for child abuse, neglect, abandonment, and sexual violence.
  2. Substance abuse. A parent’s alcohol or drug use can pose a danger to the child’s welfare and safety. If a parent has problems with substance abuse and refuses to seek treatment, the other parent may argue that their spouse is not fit to be a parent and may request sole custody.
  3. Mental illness. The third situation in which a court in Florida is likely to decide that a sole custody award would be in the child’s best interests is when a parent suffers from a mental illness that threatens the safety of the child.

Consult with an experienced attorney to determine whether or not a sole custody award is appropriate in your particular situation. Schedule a free case review with your family lawyers at Donna Hung Law Group by calling 407-999-0099.