Tampa FL Custody Lawyer

Tampa FL custody lawyer father and son embrace outside

As an experienced Tampa, FL custody lawyer, Damien McKinney understands that child custody can be an especially difficult topic. Your children are always the number one priority, especially when you are going through a separation or divorce. Child custody arrangements are a major concern in these cases, primarily because you want to make the decision in the child, or children’s, best interest.

If you are searching for a Tampa, FL custody lawyer to help you out, you likely already know that child custody matters can be incredibly complex. Even if you and your former partner have a great relationship, the legal processes involved with establishing custody can still be very difficult. Regardless of your relationship with your former partner, there’s no harm in contacting a custody lawyer Tampa, FL can provide for more information.


In Florida, a finalized divorce includes a parenting plan when children are involved. This plan streamlines what may have been multiple issues in the past by treating everything related to your children as holistic, and significant enough to deserve its own unique effort, while still treating each child as unique.
Custody, or who cares for the children, is one of the most important parts of this plan. The idea of time-sharing flows from custody. Overall, Florida encourages both parents to be involved for the best interest of the child — with the understanding that certain circumstances, like imprisonment, illness, or abuse will impact the child’s best interests and custody arrangements.

The legal definition of custody is different from what you might think it means. Many people think a parent who has a child for the longer periods of time has sole custody over the child and the other parent is thought to only have weekend and holiday visits with their children. However, this is not always the case.

When we work out your parenting plan at The McKinney Law Group, we listen to what you share with us, carefully consider the documents you provide us, and listen to the needs of your children. As a good Tampa, FL custody lawyer will likely tell you, no two custody agreements are exactly the same. Let’s take a look at three different options you can take in court for your child custody agreement.

1. Physical Custody: Someone who has physical custody of their child provides them with their primary place to live. When the time is unevenly split, one parent is labeled “primary” and the other “secondary,” Joint custody does not mean a couple splits their time exactly 50- 50 with their child, particularly if they are in school. The best interest of the child is always at the forefront of these custody agreements, so a 50-50 split is not always the best arrangement, but it is not impossible.

2. Legal Custody: The parent who has legal custody decides who gets to make important decisions for the child. Although physical and legal custody sound intertwined, the two can be exclusive. If you have any concerns about managing the legal custody of your child, don’t hesitate to speak with a Tampa, FL custody lawyer about this matter.

3. Sole Custody: All of your custodial rights belong to one parent and they make all the decisions for the child. This is infrequent, but it can be the best option if the other parent is unfit to care for the child. One such exception can be if your former spouse has substance abuse issues or have mistreated or abused your child; then sole custody would be the obvious option.


During or after your divorce, Florida courts give the most weight when making their decisions regarding custody around the best interest standard. In other words, whatever the courts decide will be based mostly on the best interest of the children involved. This means that the most important factor in custody, time-sharing, and other outcomes is what is best for your children. Of course, this is different for every family. It can even be different for each child in a family. Contact a Tampa, FL custody lawyer to create a parenting plan that satisfies the best interest standard in Florida.

Tampa, FL custody lawyer Damien McKinney helps clients understand Florida’s best interest standard as it relates to child custody, visitation, and other decisions. We know you want the best for your children. The McKinney Law Group creates parenting plans that help you prove it.

The best interest standard impacts all the decisions about your children. Even if you’re modifying a prior divorce agreement or parenting plan due to changed circumstances or the other parent’s failure to comply, the best interest standard still applies. As an experienced Tampa, FL custody lawyer, Damien McKinney is able to work with you to keep pace with change and care for your children the best way possible.

The “best interest standard” is considered for the following:

• Time children spend with each parent
• Division of general and specific parental responsibilities
• How each parent shows their ability to care for the children
• The ability of each parent to put their children’s needs first
• Geography, like when children travel or where they attend school
• The ability of each parent to maintain a healthy routine
• The ability of each parent to communicate with the other
• The overall moral fitness of each parent
• The reasonable preference of each child
This list is not comprehensive, but it should give you a good idea of how important this standard is. Ultimately, it’s about what’s best for each of your children — which we know is what you want, too.


If it is in the best interest of the child and doesn’t present any danger, then the court prefers that the child maintain a healthy relationship with the parents, requiring the parents full involvement. Sometimes a court will grant joint legal custody even in cases where one parent has sole physical custody. This could also result in a pretty liberal visitation schedule.

Joint legal custody allows both parents to make major decisions for the well-being of their child together despite the physical custody arrangement. Schooling, medical matters and religious involvement are aspects of your child’s life that you must compromise on together.
If you are unsure, consult a Tampa, FL custody lawyer sooner rather than later. They can help guide you through a fairly difficult process and manage all your priorities while you adjust to this new chapter. Further, they may help you determine a fair and optimum custody agreement for your child.


Even the most committed co-parents tend to experience significant tensions within their relationships with each other from time to time. This is both normal and understandable. After all, co-parents ultimately chose to end their romantic relationship with one another for compelling reasons. It makes sense that two people who believe that it was not the healthiest option to remain together would experience tension in their co-parenting relationship. Adding to the history between co-parents and the ordinary challenges associated with raising a child is the reality that co-parents must consistently keep in mind that their child grapples with having to live in two different households. This is enough to make anyone’s temper flare now and again.

As a result, it is generally a good idea to observe certain precautions when helping your child to navigate child custody or visitation exchanges between you and your co-parent. A custody lawyer Tampa, Florida relies on can help you with this. This is certainly true if you or your co-parent has a significant temper, your relationship was marked by domestic violence or either of you struggles with an active substance abuse problem. However, it is also true even if your relationship with your co-parent is relatively amicable. As noted above, even the most conscientious co-parents can struggle with inflamed tensions now and again.

Observing certain common sense precautions can help to ensure that you do not unintentionally further inflame tensions between you and your co-parent, remain unnecessarily vulnerable to your co-parent’s potential temper, behave in ways you may regret and stress out your kid in preventable ways. Certainly, every family’s needs are different and every family’s risks during exchanges are somewhat different. As a result, it may benefit you to speak with our firm about precautions that make sense for you. Once we understand the nature of your relationship with your co-parent and the particulars of your exchanges, we will be able to advise you in more specific ways. In preparation for a consultation, please consider thinking over some examples that may or may not make sense for you and your family.


For a myriad of reasons, co-parents often prefer to make custody or visitation exchanges in a public place. These tend to be safer locations to meet than private ones and there is a greater sense of the need to behave in self-aware ways in public. When possible, it can be nice to pick a place that you and your child can look forward to visiting and can associate with positive memories. Dropping your child off with a co-parent can be difficult for both of you, as can picking your child up (depending on the circumstances). Picking a consistent spot that you can color with positive associations is generally a good idea. Book stores, your child’s school, libraries, well-lit coffee shops and kid-friendly restaurants may work well.

If you are at all concerned for your safety or you could benefit from some support, please consider bringing along a third-party when making these exchanges. Having a witness to the situation can help mitigate risks. In addition, if you are particularly at risk for unacceptable behavior on your co-parent’s part, please consider meeting near a police station and/or somewhere surveillance cameras will certainly be recording the scene.

5 Reasons to Work with your Ex on Visitation Schedules

Typically, as part of joint child custody agreements or court orders there will be visitation guidelines and schedules involved that your Tampa, FL custody lawyer will help you get legally finalized. Whether you go through court to have a judge rule on visitation, work things out through mediation, or can come to an agreement amicably, it is still recommended to have your own lawyer who will ensure that your side is represented. Even though it may not be easy, doing your best to work together with your ex can be beneficial in many ways and be worth the effort.

1. Avoid Putting the Kids in the Middle

When the kids are put in the middle, they may feel like they are the problem and cause for conflict, which is a difficult thing for kids to deal with and try to understand. Putting your kids in the middle of fight between you and your ex could make life very difficult for them emotionally, with decision making, or within the family dynamic. It’s always a good idea to keep kids out of adult issues and worth the effort to make family life as easy as possible as well as make sure they feel secure and confident.

2. Less Stress For You

Holding onto a grudge or being constantly worried about something can cause you a lot of stress and may take a toll on you physically as well as emotionally. Doing your best to work with your ex may make proceedings go more smoothly and cause you less stress in the long run by being more workable. Of course you need to fight for your kids, but you can also let your custody lawyer in Tampa, FL take care of the legal issues for you so that you can be more relaxed and know that your children’s best interests are being fought for on your behalf.

3. Quid Pro Quo – Give Some to Get Some

When you agree to give up some of your dates for visitation, it may help you get some important time with your kids in return that you wouldn’t have otherwise. There is a good chance that if your ex sees how you are trying to be workable, they will respond with a similar behavior and attitude. If and when your ex doesn’t respond in a helpful way, your trusted Tampa custody lawyer will be by your side to help make things straight.

4. Create a Positive Dynamic

If you and your ex can begin to work together and work through issues, it can create a dynamic of cooperation that will be valuable now and in the future as you continue to have visitation schedules. Don’t forget that, whether you like it or not, you and your ex are still co-parenting even though you’re split up, so it will be beneficial for you if you can work through parenting issues and visitation more easily with your ex.

5. Model Cooperation for the Kids

Learning to cooperate with others, especially when they are being difficult or you have a painful past with them, can be very difficult, but your kids will learn from watching how you and your ex work through parenting issues. It’s easier said than done, but your kids will likely do as they see, and they are always watching!




Tampa Child Custody Law Statistics

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, mothers are awarded sole or primary physical custody in about 80% of child custody cases in the United States.

  • About 26.5% of children under the age of 21 live with only one parent.
  • About 30.1% of children living with only one parent live in poverty.
  • About 40% of U.S. states have laws that favor joint custody.
  • About 51% of custody cases are settled without a judge’s ruling.


If you have questions or concerns about your child’s custody or visitation situation, please consider reaching out to a Tampa, FL custody lawyer at The McKinney Law Group. Speaking with us does not commit you to any legal action, it simply helps to ensure that you receive any legal guidance and support you may need at this time. Depending on the nature of your relationship with your child’s other parent, you may benefit from legal assistance, encouragement, and general feedback right now. Please do not feel like you have to wait until a problem has become too significant to manage before you reach out for support. Our firm is happy to advise you at any time.

If Both Parents Have Custody Of The Children Will Either Parent Need To Pay Child Support? 

When it comes to custody and child support, things can become increasingly more complicated depending on the level and amount of care each parent brings to the equation. That said, it is essential to remember that a judge will make a decision on child support based on a number of factors, including: 

  • Health insurance
  • Costs of school or daycare
  • How many nights the children stay at each parent’s house
  • Income 
  • Medical expenses 

There is no one-size-fits-all answer and a judge will take all of these factors into consideration when making a child support decision

Do my children have a right to choose which parent they want to live with? 

Many people are surprised to find out that their kids may have a say in who they get to live with. While it is true that the entire concept of child custody and support is mature, the court may also choose to allow the children to show their preferences. When it comes to allowing this, the court will look to see whether the children understand what is going on and have the ability to express their preferences. 

How does a parenting plan fit into child custody? 

Your Tampa, FL custody lawyer can help you draw up a parenting plan that fits your family. While the court may have the final say, it is always best that you and the other parent come up with something on your own that you can agree to. This will give you both the opportunity to express your preferences and see what works for you best without a judge being the one to create a plan and enforce it. You and the other parent will often find that this is the best method for creating a plan that works for you both and that you can both stick with. 

Is it possible to modify child custody? 

Absolutely. There are certain circumstances that can allow you–or the other parent–to make modifications to your child custody and support arrangements. To successfully do so, you will need to work with your lawyer to show that there have been substantial changes since the first custody order was created. This could mean a change in job, getting re-married, or your job may require you to move. These are just a few of the possibilities that could cause changes to your arrangement. 

Is there anything I can do to get a favorable child custody agreement? 

Absolutely. We highly encourage our clients to be as involved in their kids’ lives as possible when they hope to share or receive full custody. This means understanding their medical needs, attending their extracurricular activities, being involved in their education, and having a safe space for them in your home, including things like babyproofing your home and having rooms for your kids. It is imperative that you be as involved in your kids’ lives as possible, especially when you want a favorable custody agreement. 


If you are dealing with a child custody matter, we encourage you to contact The McKinney Law Group to set up a consultation with one of our team members. To arrange a free consultation with a Tampa, FL custody lawyer, please call our office today.

The McKinney Law Group, Tampa Custody Lawyer

1105 W Swann Ave #100, Tampa, FL 33606



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