Fathers sometimes complain that in the case of a divorce, the courts don’t grant them fair custody rights. Some fathers believe that the courts tend to side with the mother when a divorce occurs and may ignore the father’s rights to equal time and decision-making authority when deciding on custody arrangements. In Florida, the law obligates the courts to give equal weight to both parent’s rights and abilities to parent when deciding on parenting arrangements.
In Florida, a "parenting plan" will guide divorcing parents regarding any decisions relating to their children. The courts encourage the parents themselves to develop the plan, but if they cannot, the court will establish the plan. The plan will include a time-sharing schedule as well as a plan regarding decision-making about the child's health care, education and general well-being.
The court will consider any past domestic violence when drawing up the plan as well as other aspects of the family’s history. Florida statutes set out these precepts equally for fathers and mothers. The Florida Legislature expects Florida courts to make their determinations of what constitutes the “child’s best interests” according to objective standards.
Florida’s courts review both parent’s financial abilities when deciding on the amount of child support that each should pay. Both parents have an equal share of the responsibility to support their children in accordance to the children’s needs and the financial abilities of each parent. Florida Child Support Guidelines (see Resources) assist the court in deciding the appropriate amount of child support that each parent must contribute to their children’s support.
Florida courts will not allow a custodial mother to deny the father his parental rights to visitation and a role in the decision-making process regarding the child because of a disagreement or delinquent child support payments. Florida courts direct that neither parent may withhold visitation privileges because of wrongdoing of the other.
Florida fathers who feel that the courts have not given them equal rights to parent their children, make decisions about their children’s lives, see their children as often as they believe that they should or pay child support that fairly represents their income and the income of their ex-spouse can turn to the Florida Men’s Resource Center (see Resources).
The FMRC has branches in Boca Raton, Bonita Springs, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Palm Harbor, Tampa/St. Petersburg and West Palm Beach. The staff of the FMRC provides information and resources to fathers who feel that their rights to equal parenting have not been addressed by Florida courts. The resources that the FMRC provides allow Florida fathers to gather information independently and assess their chances for successfully challenging an unfair child custody, visitation or child support ruling.