Jacksonville, Florida is in the Fourth Judicial Circuit of courts, prior to the 2007 legislative change from visitation to time-sharing, there was a standard visitation guidelines established by the court. Since time-sharing is a new concept for many people in Florida, the idea of the old “standard visitation schedule” seems to be used frequently in establishing a time-sharing plan. Because such schedules were developed by the court, each circuit court of Florida that used one had something different than the other. The difficulty I see with this issue is that often one parent will do research, find a schedule for visitation and try to apply it without court action. I often have clients call and ask me what “standard visitation,” is because the other parent told them that is what they have to do. Since there are different versions out there, often times my client does not know which one the other parent is even using. The legislative change to establish a time-sharing plan is designed to assist in this issue.
First, the Fourth Judicial Circuit visitation guidelines basically provided the minimum amount of visitation for the non-residential parent. According to this circuit, again each had their own standard; the non-residential parent received the following:
One day per week from after school got out until 8 p.m. one night per week, typically Wednesday; alternating weekends; alternating Thanksgiving from the day school got out until the day before returning to school; alternating Christmas break with one year from the day school got out until Christmas day at 3:00 p.m. and the next from 3:00 p.m. Christmas day through the day before school started; one-half summer and the other parent received alternating weekends; Mother’s Day with mom and Father’s day with dad; alternating birthdays; and other provisions.
If the standard visitation schedule was not working, often parents did not know what else to do because this was the court order and that is what they were going to follow. A time-sharing plan can still use these same ideas; however, it is designed to think through matters more intently so that parents can actually have time with the children greater than a minimum amount. Furthermore, some families celebrate different holidays than those accounted for in the above schedule, so the time-sharing plan takes those factors into consideration. The other thing that a time-sharing plan can assist with is developing a schedule that accommodates the parents and children since they often have more activities the older they get.
In dealing with any matter regarding children, the first step is to determine what the children’s needs are and go from there. Establishing a plan that makes sense on paper does not mean that it is going to be the right schedule in practice. Life is filled with the unexpected and having two households means that the unexpected can happen twice as often. Working through a time-sharing plan allows the parties to think through real issues before going in front of a judge and the plan can often be tweaked by agreement of the parties. In addition, it is an option to place in the plan that if the parties cannot agree on changes, then they will first go to mediation before filing for a modification of time-sharing with the court. This gives an opportunity for the parents to work through their disagreement with a neutral third party and hopefully, ultimately agree on a plan that will work.
It is not a good idea to inform the other party that you are making them go to guideline visitation because they will not understand and will not know to which set of guidelines you are referring. If you provide the parent with the guidelines that you wish to use, then allow him or her time to look over them and decide if they are agreeable. If you both have lawyers, then have yours provide your proposal to the other attorney. This can help in reaching the right time-sharing plan for both parties.