Child support and custody are arguably the most important rights that are disputed throughout a divorce. Litigation and judicial rulings are meant to result in support and custody agreements that are in the best interest of a minor or dependent child in order to limit the effect of the divorce on that child. However, the weeks and/or months leading up to the final judgement must also be addressed with regard to child support and custody.
A great deal of time can elapse from the initial filing of a divorce to its final judgement. In many cases, once one spouse files for divorce the couple will no longer be able to live together or carry out the responsibilities they once shared due to the nature of the circumstances that led them to dissolve their legal marriage. As you can imagine, this is a period of time that can be especially damaging to any children shared by the couple. If the couple chooses to initially separate it creates a legal gray area with respect to the rights of each spouse and their child during the time period leading up to the final judgement of their divorce.
To address this issue, Florida law provides for the ‘temporary relief’ of a minor child. Temporary relief of a minor child is granted early in a divorce case and addresses child support and custody of that child in the time leading up to the final judgement (which may result in different child support and custody orders).
When determining temporary child custody, courts will attempt to rule in the best interest of the child by examining factors such as:
- Age of the child(ren);
- Any agreement among the parties regarding custody and visitation;
- The wishes of the child, if the child is of a certain age (the child’s wishes are usually not determinative);
- Which parent is more likely to encourage the child to develop and maintain a relationship with the other parent;
- Whether one parent is likely to expose the child to some form of harm;
- Which will be residing at the child’s residence during the pendency of the divorce;
- Which parent provided primary care for the child prior to the commencement of the divorce; and
- Other relevant factors.
When determining child support, the court is limited to make a temporary ruling by examining a financial affidavit that discloses the income of both spouses as well as other minimum mandatory disclosures like paystubs and tax returns.
How do I petition for temporary relief?
Once a petition for divorce has been filed, either party may file a temporary order of relief. This document is available online at:
While not necessary, it is recommended that a competent family law attorney aid you in the completion of this form.
What if there is an emergency?
Some circumstances may require an even quicker decision on behalf of the court when granting temporary relief. In cases of emergency, a court may grant ‘ex parte’. Ex Parte is the the hearing of relief without the presence of the other spouse. This typically occurs if the spouse requesting ex parte, or any minor child, is in danger of abuse from the other spouse. If an ex parte relief is ordered, they may be enforceable for only a short time if the circumstances change and the other spouse is eligible for a different temporary order.