DIFFICULTY: Legal help recommended
Initial Filing Fee: $442 (varies by county)
Child Custody laws in Florida are fairly straight-forward when custody is not contested. If you are seeking child custody as part of a divorce proceeding, you do not need to file separately. Custody will be decided by the divorce proceeding.
Filing for custody is done in the circuit court of your home county in Florida. The child must also have Florida as his or her home state, meaning he or she has lived there under adult supervision for a minimum of six months. If you have a child custody suit pending in another state, or another state can claim home state status for the child, Florida may not have jurisdiction. Consult with your attorney if you are unsure where your case applies.
Step 1: File your case in Circuit Court
File form 12.902(d): Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. This form will include basic information about the child’s or children’s previous residences as well as any information on previous or pending custody battles. You do not need an attorney to file a child custody case in Florida, but it can be extremely helpful when trying to navigate the legal process. The main documentation you need to collect is evidence that you are suited to care for the child, which includes your home life, you willingness to put his or her needs above your own, and how open you are to allowing the child to maintain a relationship with the child’s parent.
Step 2: Child Support
If you are seeking child support, you must fill out Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure Form 12.902(e), which also contains a list of expected payment amounts based on the income of the paying parent. The state of Florida will conduct a paternity test as part of Child Support proceedings. If the child is special needs, the court may order a higher amount paid.
Step 3: Serve the Other Party
Deliver a copy of your child custody petition to the other party who has a claim to custodial rights. Serving the other party gives them the chance to respond and challenge your petition for custody.
Step 4: Court Date
Attend your court date with copies of all paperwork filed and any evidence you need to help prove that you are capable of taking custody of the child or children.If your custody claim is uncontested, the court hearing is more of a formality. If, however, there is another parental claim on the child, you may have to argue your case using the evidence you submitted when you filed the claim. If your custody claim is part of a divorce proceeding, you do not need to attend a separate hearing. Florida is a time-sharing state, so it is possible that if you are granted custody rights as part of a divorce proceeding, you may also have to allow visitation.