Sole Custody & Child Support

by Michelle from Jacksonville, Florida, Duval County


Can I get sole custody if her father doesn't pay child support? My daughter is four years old and her father has only paid partially of his non-ordered child support for two years.

Now he is threatening to take me to court for joint custody.

Is there any way I can get sole custody before that happens?

Answer to Florida Child Custody Question

Dear Michelle,

Since there is no court-ordered custody or parenting plan on file and no child support order, then either of you can petition the court for custody of your daughter.

Whether you file requesting custody or he files requesting custody, the outcome would likely be similar.

In child custody cases, the court will determine what custody situation is in the child’s best interest before allowing either parent to do anything.

If you were petitioning for sole custody, you would have to convince the court why your child would be better off if her father did not have joint custody.

This may be a difficult task as courts generally try to ensure that both parents have a role in a child’s life. What you can do to begin the case is to download, fill out, and file a Family Law Form 12.983(a), which is a Petition to Determine Paternity and Related Relief.

The Petition to Determine Paternity form does not only cover paternity, but it asks the court to establish custody, visitation, and or child support. If you filed before the father then you would be petitioning the court for sole custody rather than arguing against his petition.


While the interests of the child are overseen by the court, it changes the tone of the case.

One thing that you should be aware of is the connection between custody and child support.

The fact that he is or is not paying court ordered child support does not invalidate his right to see his daughter.

Joint custody however, may reduce the amount of child support you would receive from him, so it is best to attempt to work it out prior to attending court, or the judge will have to issue a custody order that you both must abide by.

Notice: We provide these answers to the general public and our website visitors as a means to further their online legal research. These answers are merely suggestions and should not be regarded as legal advice.

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Comments for Sole Custody & Child Support

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Would Like Sole Custody of My Son & Change His Last Name
by: A Worried Mom from Tampa, Florida

I have a 7 yr old son and we live in Florida. His father has not been in my son's life (financially or physically) since he was a month old. His father and I were never married but he did sign the birth certificate. Now I've tried to put him on child support but the agency have been unsuccessful in locating him for the past 6 years. How can I go about getting custody for my son. I would like to have certain measures in place just in case something happens to me. I would appreciate the assistance. Thank you for your time

--Since your son's father has not had his parental rights established, in the court's eyes you already have full custody. You might want to explore setting up a last will and possibly a living will in case something happens to you. See our Elder Law page for more information.

To change your son's last name, you would need to file a Name Change form. Also discuss options and your wishes with your family about how to take care of your son in case something does happen to you. --Staff

Child Support and Custody
by: Anonymous

My son is 12 and his father and I split up (we were never married) last year and my son and I recently relocated to California where my new boyfriend/fiance works. I have not filed for chlld support nor any type of custody but have always been the responsible parent and taken care of our son while the father hardly ever worked and laid out all hours of the night drunk and doing drugs and was verbally to both of us and physically abusive to me. Do I need to file for sole custody?

I don't see him trying to take our son because I feel like he doesn't want that responsibility and hasn't even talked to our son since we came to Cali two weeks ago, yet blames our son for not contacting him, as if it's the 12 year old's responsibility to keep in contact.

Also, after adding up the money he has given me since we split and then dividing that by the amount of months since I left, he has only given me an average of $90 a month and I know when I file for state ordered child support he is going to blow his top and it wouldn't surprise me if he stopped working shutdowns and attempted to work under the table so he wouldn't have to pay me much, if anything.

He also wants to claim our son on his taxes next year but I don't have to let him do that if he isn't properly helping me out, do I? Thanks for any assistance you can give.

--You are the custodial parent and you have every right to claim your son on your taxes. Now that you and your son are residing in California, it may be best to start child support proceedings in your state of residence. Do yourself a favor and talk to a California family lawyer to see what your options are. Our free referral service is nationwide, so it works for California and not just for Florida. Good luck. --Staff

Worried Friend
by: Nicole

My friend has parenting plan with the mother of his 6 yr old daughter. The mother is always calling him names and fighting him when its his time to pick her up. I have heard this live on the phone and the stuff she says is rotten even to the the child like your father is a nobody and will never take care of you and wont bring you back to me to go here or there, and she sometimes refuses to let him see her. He has good job and pays child support through the court as directed from years ago. Him and his mom pay for her to be in dance class and pageants.. The mother does not work and lives in small house with 5 people and has several children and no job lives on just welfare and his child support. He wants to get custody or at least joint custody. Is there a way he can prove this case of the mother.

It is not okay to talk to a child like this and make her feel her dad is a bad man when he honestly loves her soo much and just wants to take care of her and give her a great life!!!! which is where the mother should be soo greatful !

--He can file a supplemental petition to modify with a proposed parenting plan. See our Modifying Custody & Visitation page for more information. --Staff

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