Florida Divorce, Visitation & Custody: How to Navigate Through the Divorce Process

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As a Jacksonville, Florida family law attorney, divorce, visitation and custody issues are part of my daily practice. Visitation and custody are usually emotional and working with a client on their parental demeanor is vital in moving forward and eventually going to court. When dealing with custody and visitation of a child it is important that the court sees that you are willing to cooperate with one another in an effort to look out for the best interest of the child(ren).
As of October, 2008, the Parenting Plan Statute went into effect with the purpose of countering bad behavior. The time-sharing and parenting statute requires all parents to file and have the court approve a parenting plan that lays out exactly how all issues of time sharing with the minor children are going to be handled. Instead of limiting yourself to only two options, winning it all or losing, there is another, more productive way to approach the custody issue. The approach may require more maturity than some parties can muster, but, for those able to shift gears, think rationally and be patient, the following approach can be rewarding for them and their children. These steps can lead to a better solution for all, especially the children.
Think about, discuss and decide what your ultimate goals are for the kids. What outcomes would you like to see? Many people would want some of the following (or similar) goals:

1. Family Relationships
a. The kids having a great relationship with both parents
b. The kids having a great relationship with their extended families
c. Financial security for the children
d. Having a safe, secure home for the children
e. Having good schools for the kids
f. Providing for a college education for the children
g. Providing sports opportunities for the children
h. The opportunity for the kids to learn music, art or other interests

Each parent can decide what he or she thinks would be important goals for their children. Broader, underlying goals are more helpful and meaningful. If both parents think of goals in broad terms, they often can agree on them.

2. Look at the big picture.

a. Financial abilities of the parents
b. Parental/family member time available
c. What homes and schools are available and affordable
d. What the parents’ neighborhoods are like
e. The existing relationships between parents and children and the roles each parent plays with the children
f. What community resources are available
g. What special needs, if any, a child has
h. What interests the child has

3. Brainstorm options.
a. Think up as many different solutions as you can. Sometimes it is helpful to get help from a parenting expert.
b. Spend some time and try to be non-traditional or unconventional.
c. Don’t limit yourself to ‘standard’ solutions.
d. Open up your thoughts to come up with some crazy ideas because they might just turn into good ideas.

4. Evaluate your options.
a. See if they can help achieve your identified goals.
b. Criticizing and testing your options can lead to the discovery of other ideas and can help you narrow down the choices until you are left with an idea or ideas that work.

Implementation: This process can helpful if just you do it, but it is really better if you can do it with the other parent whether on your own accord or with the assistance of a parenting coordinator that is trained to help the parents keep their focus on the children.
If you are seeking a divorce or have a modification regarding time-sharing, then you should speak with an experienced family law attorney.