Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney at Law
Dealing 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.
In the parenting plan, the parties can also agree to attend mediation if they are not able to reach an agreement later. What this means is that if the parties cannot agree on certain decisions regarding the child, then they may return to mediation prior to filing an action with the court. This can be helpful in saving the parties attorney fees, but also helpful in that it can alleviate going to court every time an issue arises between them. By going to court on a consistent basis the children most likely will be negatively impacted over time and this decision to mediate can help alleviate that strain.
If the parties cannot establish a parenting plant that works for both of them, then a parenting coordinator may be appointed by the court or agreed to by the parties. A parenting coordinator is often trained to help the parties communicate more effectively and to help establish a mutual understanding between the parties in order to effectuate the best parenting plan for their situation. The coordinator often meets with both parents and the children to better understand the family dynamics and address issues with everyone involved in order to develop the best plan possible. By working with the parenting coordinator, parents who are normally at odds may find themselves on even ground and be able to work more amicably in raising the kids. It can also be agreed that if a future issue arises that they return to parenting coordination for assistance in handling the issue.
If you are going through a custody and/or visitation issue in Florida, then you should speak with an experienced family law attorney to better understand your rights and options.