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Parental responsibility in child custody: Doing what's best

Part of being a parent is making uncomfortable decisions in the best interests of a child. This is an important parental responsibility. Parents who are considering divorce will have to navigate child custody and related issues. Some others may be wondering if they could get custody of the child of a close relative, or family friend. In Florida, as in other states, there are several steps involved in making a child custody decision.

For parents who are considering divorce and those who are already going through a divorce, child support is a concern. Just as is the case with spousal support, child support, property division and other decisions in a divorce, child custody is decided by the court unless both parties can come to an agreement beforehand. In most cases, it is probably best if the parents can reach an agreement before the court steps in to do so.

Of course, there are also parents who were never married that may find themselves in a battle for custody of a child. In cases where the parents are unwed, the courts usually give custody to the mother, unless the child's father goes to court to try to gain custody. The parents can reach an agreement on custody and visitation in these cases as well. Otherwise, the court will be left to decide, based upon the unique circumstances presented.

Then there are the cases where a person wishes to gain custody of the child of another individual. This could be the case for an aunt, uncle, grandparents, stepparent, close family friends or others. In some states, this is known as guardianship of the child. In these types of decisions, the person usually starts the process by filing a document, which is typically called a non-parental custody petition. This petition is used to explain where the biological parents are, and why the person filing believes that they should be granted custody of the child.

In all of these types of child custody cases, it is a good idea to start with a family law attorney. Parental responsibility dictates that the parent will want the best for their child. Reaching a negotiated agreement is much easier on any child than fighting it out in court. In Florida, a mediator can help parents come to that decision. After all, it is much better for the choice to be that of parents rather than the courts.

Source: findlaw.com, "How Child Custody Decisions Are Made", Accessed on April 6, 2017

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