Articles Posted in Parenting Plans / Time Sharing

Natural-Disasters-300x300Pounding rains, whipping winds, and treacherous flooding poses threaten the safety of your family, your home, and your daily life. As a hurricane or other natural disaster looms, questions about what to do with about the Florida Family Law Timesharing Plan of your beloved children start to circulate between you and your former spouse. What is a co-parent to do when these issues are not addressed in a parenting plan?

It is highly unlikely that your parenting plan contemplates what to do in case of a natural disaster or emergency situation. When the urgent need for shelter, water, and possible evacuation becomes a reality, courthouses are closed and the aid of the judiciary is extremely limited. First, you should communicate with your former spouse or co-parent, with the consideration of your shared children’s safety being the primary concern. Providing accurate location information and contact between the absent parent should be maintained.

Second, consider the obligations of your co-parent and their family. Is he or she a first responder, serviceperson, or will he or she be called into work? Does the co-parent have the care of vulnerable person, such as an elderly family member or infant/small child? Finally, where does the c0-parent live? Will he or she need to evacuate based on their evacuation zone or do they have special needs?   When creating a emergency plan for your shared children, it’s important to realize that your children will be worried about the parent that cannot be with them, but also for their own safety, so taking the steps early to make a plan is key.

899402_you_have_mailThe changing times allow for a change in an approach how parents can engage, interact, and build relationships with their children. It seems as if we live in a world where many children have a cellphone, laptop, and/or tablet device capable of communication in various forms. While these items used to be considered luxury items primarily owed by working adults, these items are now becoming very prevalent in the lives of children. While there are many concerns for these pocket computes being placed in the hands of children, there are many benefits to this oversaturation of technology. The growing prevalence in the use of technology by children has allowed for a window of opportunity for parents to foster and maintain relationships, no matter where they are located.

Decades ago people would think of custody or timesharing with children to only include the moments in which the child was physically with them. But now, parenting plans can include provisions in which telephonic, audio visual, or other forms of electronic communication is ordered to occur between a parent and a child. The court will not order this in all cases. Yet, it remains important for client’s to be aware that this type of order is available to them. The court will consider the child’s best interest, first and foremost, and then go on to consider other factors, such as, the availability of the communication method to the child, previous history of abuse or drug use of a parent, additional costs to the parent’s for the child’s use of a device, and the need for any safeguards for the child related to the use of such a device.

While children are to be protected from being utilized as a messenger between the parents, this order communication allows for a direct fostering of the parent child relationship, typically, without the intervention of the other parent. It is not a necessity for a child to have their own communication device to effectuate this type of order, as they can use one of their parent’s devices. Fostering a relationship with your child is of the utmost importance, if you find yourself limited in communication with your child reach out to a local family law attorney, today.

Florida child custody laws require certain provisions and allocations to be listed in each child custody final order. These provisions related to the upbringing of the child, they contain rights of the child, responsibility, and timesharing allocations. However, many clients reach confusion regarding the difference between timesharing and parental responsibility. Under the Florida Family Law Rules these are two separate and distinct concepts. Parental responsibility involves the parents’ involvement in the major decisions in the child’s life including health care, school, child care, etc. In Florida there are three types of parental responsibility:

1) Sole Parental Responsibility- applies when only one parent has the right to control all aspects of the child’s life;

2) Shared Parental Responsibility- occurs when the parents must jointly make decisions on all parenting decisions; or

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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

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Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney at Law

1195577_us.jpgDealing with custody and visitations issues in a Florida divorce or paternity case is not the same now as it was a few years ago. Florida laws have changed to help parents keep the best interest of the children at the forefront of their case and to leave out, in theory, the unnecessary games of custody battles. Florida legislatures changed the names for many of the court actions, including visitation, which is now time-sharing. Also, the rules governing the parents, such as not making disparaging remarks about the other party are now part of a parenting plan. The idea is that parents should be working together to raise their children instead of putting each other down and trying to play the “good guy” to the kids during the court case. In so doing, parents actually have to think about what they would like established between them to make co-parenting easier throughout the child’s life.

For example, a parenting plan, which now must be filed with the court, can detail out not just the present, but the future activities as well. Such things as graduation parties, birthday parties and sporting events can be detailed to state how the parties will not only divide costs, but whether they will actually agree to other parent attending the event. The parenting plan can address these and other issues to help them meet on neutral ground to determine the best interest of the child as she/he is growing up. In addition to parties, meeting new significant others can be addressed and time periods established for how long until the child meets the parent’s significant other. It’s helpful to rule out future arguments and can be addressed to amicably resolve future disputes.

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

1282783_silhouettes_8.jpgIssues involving children typically arise in Florida divorce and paternity actions. As a Jacksonville family and divorce lawyer, I often meet with clients that want to have sole custody of the child. However, sole custody is not what they imagine it to be. The confusion in the terminology typically leads itself down an unwanted path. The questions that need to be answered are whether both parents are fit to have shared parental responsibilities in making decisions regarding the child(ren) and what type of time-sharing or visitation they would most like to have with the child. Understanding the terms can be helpful when going through a divorce or paternity case because you better know what to fight for during the case.

Sole custody is actually no longer a term used in Florida family law cases. The implications of, “sole custody,” are that one parent wants the other parent to have absolutely nothing to do with the child. Typically, this is not the case. However, if you ask the court for, “sole custody,” then the judge is typically going to ask what it is about the other parent that makes him or her unfit as a parent. For example, if Mary and Frank are divorcing and Mary has a significant drug and alcohol addiction, then Frank may tell an attorney he wants sole custody. What Frank really means is that he wants to be the majority time-sharing parent, in accordance with Florida statutes. Also, Frank is saying that Mary is not capable of making decisions regarding the child’s welfare, including decisions related to education, medical attention and the like. Therefore, Frank actually wants to be the majority time-sharing parent and have sole parental responsibility for the child.

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law
1243620_life_belt_1.jpgJacksonville Florida parents who go through a divorce can write a parenting plan to decide how they will divide their children’s time after a divorce. The plan provides a roadmap for the child’s future, and is the most important document in a Florida divorce involving children. Deciding how to best divide visitation can be challenging for parents, especially when dealing with all other aspects of the divorce. However, keeping children in the forefront of determining what is in their best interest can ultimately lead to right results for everyone. In addition, if there are problems with establishing the parenting plan, a parenting coordinator that is a neutral third party can be helpful to establishing communication between parents. While the school year may be an easy visitation schedule, often summers make for more interesting issues.

Summer time-sharing can be a challenge for parents because their normal time-sharing is often changed during the summer months. Often, the visitation schedule will allow for a parent to have one-half of the summer or for most of the summer, depending on the distance between the parents. When one parent has the children for six (6) consecutive weeks, the other parent is supposed to get the time-sharing normally exercised by the other. For example if Mary has the children the majority of the time and Dan has the kids every-other-weekend, then during the summer Mary would have alternating weekends and Dan would have majority time. Again, this is dependent on the parenting plan. A parenting plan approved by the court must at a minimum: describe how parents will share the child, the time-sharing schedule for holidays, school-related matters, other actives, and the methods and technologies that the parents will use to communicate with the child.

When dealing with summer time-sharing, parents often need to make plans for the children while parents go to work. Finding a camp or other activity for the child falls on the parent exercising his or her summer time-sharing. For example, if Dan works, then he may decide to put the child or children into camp during the weeks that he has them. The camp cannot interfere with Mary’s time-sharing, unless Mary agrees with the situation. So, if the kids want to go to an overnight, away camp that lasts a couple of weeks, then Mary and Dan may agree for them to do so without worrying about the normal time-sharing plan. However, Dan could not make the decision and infringe on Mary’s time-sharing without first speaking with her.

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Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

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First, the Florida legislature changed child custody to “primary timesharing parent” in October, 2008. However, since most of us are familiar with child custody and custody issues, this article will still address the issue as the historic term, “custody.”
As a Jacksonville Florida family law and divorce attorney, dealing with paternity cases and divorces with children, custody issues often arise and the Social Evaluation is an important factor in helping the parents better understand the issues facing the children, and the evaluation assists the judge in having a better understanding and comprehension of what is in the best interest of the children. In Jacksonville and throughout Florida, the social investigation is a component of the case that may be used in its entirety by the judge or may give the judge a basis for a particular ruling. In addition, the evaluation can provide the parties with a stepping-stone or format by which to reach an agreement regarding visitation issues.

The social investigation is conducted by a professional, usually someone with a psychology and law background, and the investigator actually interviews the parents, speaks with witnesses, talks to the kids, look at school records, etc. Once the reviews and statements are completed, the evaluator writes a comprehensive report to demonstrate the findings for each parent, child, and the overall assessment of a parenting plan and recommendations for the court regarding any other matters that should be addressed (i.e. whether counseling is recommended, communication issues, etc.).

So how do you present well in the social investigation? Basically, parties are often concerned that they need to present themselves in a certain light to impress the investigator. However, most of the individuals handing these matters can tell when a party is putting on a show. The idea is not to be fake or phony, but to present your concerns for the children, explain your relationship with the children, and truly identify your wants and needs and the children’s wants and needs before the interview. Being genuine with the investigator is beneficial because it allows the investigator to truly determine any family issues that may need to be addressed, the impact the divorce/separation is actually having on the children and the like. The reason for the investigation is not to berate the parents, but to simply identify what may be in the best interest of the children in the present and in the future.

Extend a mental olive branch to the other party. During your interview with the evaluator, do not destroy the other parent with disparaging remarks. Describe the parts of parenting that the other parent does well and be honest in your comments about the children’s relationship with their other parent. Then share the things that do concern you about the other party, or about the separation of the children. You do not have to make it sound like everyone is great, you’re getting divorced there were issues in the home, so being real about the situation can be helpful in reaching the right conclusion for your case.

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Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

tug-o-war1-1.jpgAs a Jacksonville, Florida divorce lawyer, I handle cases dealing with primary time-sharing issues, previously known as custody battles. In representing one parent against the other, my job is not only to represent my client, but to also make certain that in doing so I am preserving what is in the best interest of the child. The best interest of the child standard is used throughout almost every state in determining issues such as custody, time-sharing, visitation, parental responsibility, and the like. When the best interest of the child is in jeopardy the courts find it their duty to protect the children from irreparable harm, both physically and mentally.

A parent who fights for custody simply because she or he does not want to pay child support or simply because she or he needs child support, are not looking out for the best interest of the child, but their own best interest. This type of divorce and custody dispute can lead parties to make poor decisions for the children and cause a rift in their relationship with the children and also with the other parent, thus making it difficult to make big decisions together for the sake of the children. Once the case is over, the judge does not have a magic wand to put all relationships back as if the battle never occurred. Typically, the child will then grow-up with parents that barely communicate and the child may or may not have a solid relationship with each parent at the end of the day.

Bringing children into your legal battle is not for the child’s benefit. The child should be protected from the divorce battle or custody battle that is ongoing with the other parent. When the court is looking to which parent is the best choice to take care of the child the majority of the time, the judge typically looks for which parent is more likely to look after the interests of the child, help to foster a good relationship with the child and the other parent, etc. A drawn out dispute that leads to false allegations and actions of emotional or physical harm to a child is not going to bode well with any judge in Florida. Therefore, keeping these things at bay as parents, and trying to resolve matters in a light most favorable to the kids is more important than the financial strain of paying child support.

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556896_just_the_two_of_us_2.jpgFlorida family law cases involving children, custody, time-sharing, parental responsibility, and a parenting plan can be challenging not just in the initial case, but as time goes by. When these things are fought over, the parents often loose sight of the fact that they don’t just have to raise a child while the court proceeding is going on, but until the child actually turns 18 and moves out of the house. Jacksonville and other North Florida courts try to keep the level of parental animosity to a low, but ultimately the court only has so much control over the individuals. However, one continuous arm the court and the parents have is when the parenting plan gives specific directions about speaking negatively about the other parent to the child, interfering with the child’s relationship with the other parent, or simply alienating the child from the other parent.

In most parenting plans, there is specific language regarding the relationship of the parent with the child, especially when it comes to matters of the other parent. For example, in many cases, there may be language like, “Neither parent shall disparage the other to the child, speak negatively in front of the child about the other, or hinder the other parent’s relationship with the child in anyway.” The reason this language or similar language may be in an order is because the impact on the other parent’s relationship with child may be severe damage. The parenting plan helps the parents understand what they can and cannot do, or should and should not do as parents raising a child in a divided home. When the parenting plan is placed into a final order and signed by the court, it becomes enforceable, meaning that there can be court recourse if a parent does not abide by the order.

When raising children, it is important to maintain the standard of, “the best interest of the child,” and not, “the best standard for me.” If a parent violates the parenting plan and begins to alienate the child, then action can be taken with a contempt action. In a Motion for Contempt, the court looks at the order for clarification of what should be done by both parties. Then, the court hears testimony and evidence regarding how the order has been violated by one of the parties. If there is evidence presented that shows that the child has, in fact, been exposed to negative, derogatory, or alienating words or actions by one parent against the other, then that parent may be held in contempt. If the same actions continue, then the parent being alienate may go back to court on more than one occasion to have the other parent held in contempt. Contempt is a voluntary and willful action of one party that is against the court order.