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Child Custody Agreements: Dealing with Hazards to the Child’s Health and Well-being

In late March, the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal released in an instructive opinion in a contested child custody case. The decision is a good reminder that the best interests of the child should always prevail in Florida courts. If you believe that your child’s best interests are not being served by your current parenting plan, please contact an experienced Orlando child custody attorney for immediate legal assistance.

The Best Interests of the Child

In this case, the former couple’s youngest had a medically verified allergy to dogs. According to the complaint, the child’s mother alleged that her former husband was allowing this child to be around his new girlfriend’s pet dogs. She contended that this was damaging her child’s well-being, and requested that restrictions be placed on the child’s exposure to the dogs. A lower court disagreed, but the Fifth circuit reversed their opinion, noting that several medical professionals had found that the child should avoid exposure to dogs. Therefore, the lower court had abused its discretion by not allowing restrictions in the agreement because the restrictions would be in the best interests of the child. When determining what is in the best interests of a child’s health and safety, Florida law instructs courts to consider:

  • Physical safety;
  • Emotional health; and
  • Overall well being.

What if My Child’s Other Parent is Not Protecting Their Health and Safety

  • Modification: If you believe that the other parent is not adequately protecting your child’s well-being, you should contact an attorney and look to obtain a post judgment child custody modification. These modifications can include a wide variety of individually tailored court orders. For example, assume that you and the child’s other parent had a 50-50 time sharing agreement with no court ordered restrictions. Now, imagine that your child developed a pet allergy similar to the one that occurred in this case; ideally your child’s other parent would simply do the responsible thing and keep them away from any offending pets. But, if the other parent falls short, your first step would be to seek a child custody modification that would order that your child be kept away from any offending pets. If the other parent keeps violating the court order, you will then have the tools to take additional legal action.
  • Sole custody: In some cases, you may be forced to seek the removal of the other parent’s responsibilities. In Florida, it is believed that a child is best served by having a relationship with both parents. However, in cases where the child’s health and safety has been put at risk, the best interests of the child are no longer being served by a shared custody arrangement. When child abuse or clear neglect is occurring, you will often be able to obtain sole parental responsibility.

Contact An Experienced Orlando Child Custody Attorney

Florida law always looks to what is in the best interests of the child above all else. If your current child custody agreement is not serving your child’s best interests, the experienced family law team at the Law Offices of Steve W. Marsee, P.A. can help. Contact our Orlando office today at 407-521-7171 for more information.

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