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Child Custody and Support Lawyers Serving Lakeland & Sebring

Helping families manage crises

Child custody and support are among the most contentious issues between parents during and after a divorce. Sessums Law Group, P.A. understands the stress families go through and helps families deal with conflicts. Mark A. Sessums is double board certified in Civil Trial Law and Marital and Family Law by the Florida bar, so he is especially qualified to help you overcome obstacles in your custody battle.

How can I file for custody?

A parent or other interested relative can seek custody of a child in more than one way. If the parents of a child are getting divorced, one or both parents can ask the court for custody of the child through their divorce attorneys as part of the divorce paperwork.

If the parents were never married, the child’s birth mother automatically has custody. An unwed father must go to court to secure parental rights in Florida. If the father has asserted his parental rights, either parent can file a petition for custody in the appropriate court.

What types of custody are available?

The two primary facets of a custody arrangement in Florida are physical custody and legal custody. Primary physical custody refers to which parent a child lives with. Legal custody indicates which parent has legal access to information about the child and has a say in important decisions about the child’s care and upbringing. Legal custody is also referred to as shared parental responsibility in Florida.

Florida recognizes multiple custody arrangements for minor children, including:

  • Sole legal and sole physical custody to one parent
  • Joint legal custody to both and primary physical custody to one parent (the other parent normally gets timesharing rights)
  • Joint legal and shared physical custody
  • Temporary custody (usually granted for the pendency of a case)

If a father’s parental rights are established by marriage or otherwise, Florida law requires courts to give the father as much consideration as the mother when making a custody determination. Florida law also presumes joint legal custody is in a child’s best interest. A parent who disagrees with the presumption can challenge it by presenting sufficient evidence to the court.

What do courts consider when deciding custody?

Custody of a child indicates who is responsible for the care, control and maintenance of the child. The general rule for deciding custody is that a court must determine what is in the best interest of the child. Some factors a court may consider when deciding custody include:

  • Which parent is more likely to act in the child’s best interest
  • Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent and continuing contact with the other parent
  • The depth, quality and nature of the relationship between each parent and the child

Does Florida have a relocation law?

Florida law protects parental rights and parent-child relationships by limiting custodial parents’ ability to move out of state. A custodial parent who wants to move must notify the other parent and give the other parent an opportunity to object. If the non-custodial parent objects to the move, the custodial parent can present evidence that the proposed move is in the best interests of the child. If the issue is contested, a judge makes the final decision.

How can I get child support?

Obtaining a child support order is a fairly simple process and is normally part of divorce and custody proceedings. Alternatively, if the parents were never married, the birth mother must go to court and ask a court to order paternity testing. Once a father is conclusively identified, the mother can seek child support along with custody.

Child support amounts are calculated according to Florida’s child support guidelines. The formula includes such factors as:

  • Both parents’ incomes
  • Healthcare and child care costs
  • Standard needs for the child

A sliding scale of basic monthly support obligations based on the child’s age and net income of the parents appears in Florida’s child support law.

I lost my job. Can I stop paying child support?

The best thing to do in this situation is to continue paying support to the extent possible, but seek a modification of the child support order quickly. Modifying child support payments must be done through a court for an official change to take effect. Reducing child support unilaterally without a court order can result in a contempt citation and possibly even jail time.

When does child support end?

Child support obligations continue until the child’s 18th birthday or until the child graduates high school, whichever is later, as long as the child is making a good faith effort to finish high school before age 19. Child support can end sooner if the child marries, joins the United States Armed Forces, dies or becomes emancipated. The date child support ends can also be altered by a court order.

Call family law attorneys in Lakeland and Sebring today to arrange a meeting

Sessums Law Group, P.A. represents clients in custody issues in and around Polk, Highlands and Hillsborough counties. We are ready to partner with you to develop a winning strategy. We offer free consultations in personal injury, medical malpractice and wrongful death cases. Call our Lakeland office at 877-826-5630, our Sebring office at 863-658-4796 or contact us online to arrange an appointment. At Sessums Law Group, P.A., we stand for you!


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