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What is a Custody Order? 

The Gainesville Child Custody Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC understand the difficulties that parents can have when attempting to sort through and make sense of the numerous documents that typically accompany a family law proceeding involving the custody, care and responsibility of minor children. Even the simplest custodial matters can involve an overwhelming amount of paperwork, which can make it hard for parents to understand their rights, duties and obligations as set forth within their custody order. This task can seem all the more daunting when the parents are dealing with child custody issues, while also in the process of dissolving their marriage.

The term ‘custody order’ can be somewhat misleading in and of itself, and for several reasons. First, if you are looking for a document in your file that is simply entitled ‘custody order,’ you are unlikely to find it. In fact, given recent revisions to Florida Statutes, including changes in terminology intended to equalize parental responsibility and reduce conflict, it has become decreasingly common for the term ‘custody’ to be even be referenced in the title of an initial order or judgment, particularly in cases where the parents have equal time-sharing and responsibility.

In addition, the term ‘custody order’ is singular, which can be misinterpreted to mean that each and every issue pertaining to child custody has been neatly and concisely set forth within a single document. However, the actual custody order or judgment, is often little more than a brief document, signed by the judge, and filed with the court, that approves, attaches, references, or otherwise directs the parties to other documents, such as the marital settlement agreement, parenting plan and time-sharing schedule.

In some cases, the parties are able to reach their own resolution regarding custodial matters, and the court will subsequently enter an order approving such agreement. In other cases, issues over custody remain in dispute, and therefore the court must enter a ruling to resolve such issues. For many, custody proceedings involve a combination of both parental agreement and decisions of the court. As such, custodial agreements entered into between the parties, custody determinations made by the court, and the orders or judgments that extend from each, must be considered in conjunction with one another.

Parents should also keep in mind that orders regarding custody and visitation come in many forms. For example, the court may enter an order on a temporary basis while a divorce is pending. A temporary custody order may also be necessary when there is an issue regarding a parent’s relocation with a child, or for jurisdictional purposes when there is an existing out-of-state order. Even final judgments or orders pertaining to custody may be subject to modification in the future. Modifications often address only an isolated issue or issues, and therefore parents must consider the changed terms, while also accounting for any original terms that were not modified.

Consequently, the term ‘custody order’ is essentially just a succinct way of referencing all the documents that set forth the current legal rights, duties, and responsibilities that each parent has over a particular minor child. What is most important for parents, is understanding which custodial terms that they are currently subject to at a given time. If you have any questions or concerns regarding an existing custody order or pending custody dispute, the Gainesville Child Custody Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC are here to help.

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