Filing for Custody in Florida

When you petition for a divorce in the state of Florida, you may petition for custody of any minor children born during your marriage. Florida does not have any legal presumptions that mothers should be favored for custody of the children. The law in Florida is that the judge must determine what is in the best interests of the children only. If you were not originally awarded custody of your children, you might be able to gain custody by modifying the original decree.

During a Divorce Procedure

Step 1

File the petition for dissolution of marriage and summons in the county where you or your spouse reside. Include in the petition that you are seeking custody of the minor children born during the marriage. If you are the respondent, file your answer and include that you are seeking custody of the minor children. All forms that you will need throughout the process are available on the Florida State Courts Self-Help website at www.flcourts.org.

Step 2

Complete the Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course. The course can be completed online and is mandatory in divorce cases involving children.

Step 3

Complete and file with the court the family law financial disclosure statement, the child support worksheet and the uniform child custody and enforcement affidavit.

Step 4

Comply with all orders of the court while the divorce is pending, including, but not limited to, cooperating with home visits or investigations.

Step 5

Attend the final hearing if you and your spouse have not reached a marital agreement that addresses custody of the children. Answer all questions asked of you by the judge or your spouse's attorney. Explain to the judge why you feel it is in the best interests of the children to grant you custody.

Post judgment

Step 1

Prepare and file a supplemental petition to modify parenting plan/time-sharing schedule and other relief. The form can be found on the Florida State Court Self-Help website at www.flcourts.org.

Step 2

Serve your ex-spouse with the petition.

Step 3

Attend the hearing and convince the judge that there has been a "substantial change in circumstances" since the original custody determination and that the change in custody is in the best interest of the children.

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