May 18, 2023

Child Custody in Florida: Types and Legal Implications

As a parent, divorce or separation can be one of the most challenging experiences you can go through. You have to deal with the emotional stress of ending a relationship as well as figure out how to divide your assets and, most importantly, determine the custody of your children.

In Florida, child custody laws can be complicated, and understanding the different types of custody can be confusing. To help you navigate this process, we’ve put together this guide that outlines the different types of child custody in Florida and their legal implications.

Legal Custody

This custody refers to the right of a parent to make crucial decisions regarding their child’s upbringing, including education, healthcare, and religious practices. There are two types of legal custody: sole and joint.

Sole Legal Custody

When a court grants sole legal custody, one parent has the exclusive right to make all significant decisions regarding the child’s welfare. The other parent may be allowed to make minor decisions, such as when the child should go to bed or what they should wear, but they have no say in major decisions.

Joint Legal Custody

In joint legal custody, both parents have equal rights and responsibilities when it comes to making important decisions regarding their child’s upbringing. This means that both parents must communicate and work together to make decisions that are in the best interest of their child.

Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to the actual physical care and residence of a child. There are two types of physical custody: sole and shared.

Sole Physical Custody

When one parent has sole physical custody, the child lives exclusively with them, and the other parent may have visitation rights or no contact with the child at all.

Shared Physical Custody

In shared physical custody, the child lives with both parents, and they split their time between each parent’s home. This arrangement can be challenging and requires both parents to communicate and cooperate to ensure the child’s well-being.

Split Custody

Split custody is a rare but possible arrangement in Florida. It occurs when a family has more than one child, and each parent has physical custody of at least one child. This arrangement can be emotionally challenging for both parents and children and may require additional support from a mental health professional.

Factors Considered by Florida Courts

When determining the type of child custody, courts in Florida prioritize the best interests of the child. The court will consider several factors, including but not limited to:

  • The child’s age, gender, and physical and emotional health
  • The child’s relationship with each parent and other influential individuals in their life
  • Each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s needs, including emotional and financial support
  • Each parent’s willingness to encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent
  • The child’s preference, if they are mature enough to express one
  • History of domestic violence or substance abuse by either parent

Modifying Child Custody Arrangements

Child custody arrangements can be modified by either parent if there is a significant change in circumstances. For example, if one parent moves out of state or if the child’s needs change, a modification may be necessary. However, the court will only modify the arrangement if it is in the best interests of the child.


Navigating child custody in Florida can be challenging, but understanding the different types of custody and their legal implications can help you make informed decisions. Remember that the court’s priority is the best interests of the child, and both parents must work together to ensure their child’s well-being.

If you’re going through a divorce or separation and need assistance with child custody, it’s essential to seek help from an experienced family law attorney. They can guide you through the legal process and ensure that your rights are protected.

Do you need a family lawyer? Turn to Dorsey Law JAX. Our top attorneys specialize in family law, criminal law, and personal injury. Contact us!


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