When it comes to child custody, in recent years, the concept has come to be known in Florida as "parental responsibility" instead. It's under Florida Statute 61.046 that family judges are authorized to make decisions as to whether one parent should be granted sole responsibility for his or her child or if that right should be shared between both.
In Florida, whether the couple is married or not has no bearing on a judge's parental responsibility decision-making. Instead, all that matters is that both parties can prove their legal connection to the child. If they can, then they both are entitled to demand custody.
A judge will most often look to award a parent sole parental responsibility of the child in situations in which it can be proven that the child is being subjected to questionable living circumstances or is in some type of danger. If awarded sole responsibility, then that parent has the ability to make decisions in his or her child's life without it being necessary to first consult the child's other parent.
In contrast, in instances where it can't be proven that a child's well-being is threatened, a judge may order that the parents share custody. In those instances, parents must collaborate with one another to make decisions regarding their minor child's life.
Either arrangement requires the child's parents to draft a timesharing agreement. Under state statute 61.046, all couples must devise a schedule that allows the two parents to spend equal time with their child. It must spell out when overnight and holiday visits are going to occur as well.
This agreement must be approved by the judge in order for it to be enforceable. If a couple cannot agree to a particular plan, then a judge will make a decision for them. Parenting plans can only be modified by court order.
All parents, custodial or not, are required to take on financial responsibility for the raising of their child. State statute 61.30 establishes guidelines for how child support is calculated. A court order establishes a parent's monthly financial burden.
If you are seeking to either request custody of your child or support payments, then there are numerous considerations that you'll want to take into account to give you a better chance of a judge ruling in your favor. A Fort Myers child custody attorney can advise you of what those considerations are.
Source: Legal Beagle, "Florida custody laws for unmarried parents," Susie Kim-Carberry, accessed July 14, 2017