Experienced Advocacy Representing Families in Lee County, Cape Coral, and Lehigh Acres
Child custody is one of the most consequential matters to discuss in a divorce, as it largely determines your child’s future, as well as your relationship with your child. While emotions may run high, it is important not to let these emotions override your cool in the negotiations room. Attorney John D. Mills, P.A. is a dispassionate and assertive advocate who will examine the practical facts of your situation to build a strong, legal case for your desired custody arrangement. While you navigate the emotional side of divorce, Attorney Mills can handle the legal side of custody for you. He will put up a tough case for you and your child.
Florida refers to physical custody and legal custody as “parenting time” and “parental responsibility,” respectively. Parenting time, then, addresses who the child will reside with and the visitation schedule. This can be granted solely to one parent or shared between both. Note that even if both parents share parenting time, Florida will deem one parent the primary or custodial parent, who has the final say when the couple cannot agree. (This parent is usually the one who has more parenting time with the child).
Parental responsibility addresses each parent’s right to make major decisions for the child, such as those regarding healthcare, medical treatment, education, and religion. Parental responsibility may also be granted solely to one parent or shared between both.
Keep in mind that Florida law requires divorcing parents to submit a parenting plan to the court detailing how they intend to share time and parental responsibilities. At the minimum, an acceptable plan should outline:
- a plan for sharing responsibility of daily parenting tasks;
- a custody time-sharing schedule;
- the designated address for school registration and other activities;
- a plan for how the parents will communicate with one another regarding the child; and
- the designated parent responsible for healthcare and school-related matters.
The Child’s Best Interests
To determine the custody arrangement, the judge will base their decision on the child’s best interests. According to Fla. Stat. § 61.13(3) (2020), this could include factors like:
- each parent's willingness to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent;
- each parent's ability to meet the child's needs;
- each parent's physical and mental health;
- each parent's moral fitness;
- each parent's ability to provide the child with a consistent routine;
- geographic viability of the parenting plan (the amount of travel it would take to honor the time-sharing schedule);
- the child's adjustment to home and community;
- reasonable preference of the child if of sufficient age and understanding;
- evidence of domestic violence, if any;
- each parent's ability to provide a safe and stable environment for the child;
- the child's developmental age, needs, and abilities; and
- any other relevant factor.
Modifying an Existing Order
A custody order typically lasts until the child turns 18 years old. However, the court understands that circumstances can change, especially as the child grows older. If a parent can show a material change in circumstances (e.g., evidence of abuse in the other home, the child’s grades plummeting, etc.), or if several years have elapsed since the order was issued, they can file a custody modification request to adjust the terms of the order. Note that the petitioning parent has the burden of proving that such a change will be in the child’s best interests.
John D. MillsAttorneyI'm John D. Mills, and I am dedicated to aggressively pursuing the best possible outcome for my clients - inside and outside of court.
Monica S. AdkinsLegal AssistantMonica Skinner Adkins is a 5th generation Lee County residence. She was born and raised in Fort Myers and graduated from North Fort Myers High School and attended Edison Community College for two years.
Sheryl A. RiebenackParalegalSheryl A. Riebenack, a Florida Registered Paralegal, has worked with the firm since 2010. She has over 40 years of experience in marital & family law. She serves our clients with compassion and respect.
Contact the Law Office of John D. Mills, P.A. for legal guidance in your custody matter in Fort Myers. Whether you are currently facing a custody battle or have questions about petitioning for modification, our firm can guide you through the legal process.
Schedule an initial consultation at (239) 347-9932 to get started today.
We can effectively defend your rights and fight for your best interests at each stage of the legal process.