Custody of a child has changed significantly over the last few years in Florida. Custody implies that one person has more control over a child than another, and the Florida legislature, along with members of the Florida family law division of the Florida Bar worked to make changes that no longer implied one parent being greater than another. While the changes started a few years back, the general public is still in need of education on the topic so that, hopefully over time, the the correct terminology will be used on a day-to-day basis and the animosity that generally follows with a divorce involving children or a paternity action will slowly wind down. While not an easy feat, we can at least make strides to make that happen with continuing to change laws and hopefully open up more communication between parents.
What are these changes? Historically, in Florida family law there was a presumption that one parent, typically the woman in many respects, was going to have “custody” of the children when there is a divorce or paternity case. Any case involving children had a certain spin to it in society where it was believed that women were more nurturing than men and therefore should have the kids. Laws, over time, have changed and the Florida judicial system started to recognize that life is not normally cut and dry in most family dynamics and there may be a need to change from the earlier presumptions of women over men. It is not to imply that the laws changed in order for men to be given preference over women, but that laws evolved to recognize that the court needs to look at the mother and father, their individual relationships with the children, and ultimately decide what is in the best interest of the child.
What took time to reach and is slowly becoming more recognized is that the alternating weekends and one evening per week may not always be the best situation for children of a broken home. The term custody was completely thrown out by the legislature in hopes of getting the parents on the same page and to help determine what type of visitation or time-sharing schedule is best for the children. The legislature’s hope in making this change was to get parents to communicate more openly and hopefully, over time, take away some of the animosity that is created through a divorce or paternity case and ultimately can lead to long, tiresome and often hurtful litigation between parents and the children suffering through the fight.
Since the change to time-sharing and the concept of actually sharing your child is becoming better understood, I have noticed a slight change with my clients. Once the word “custody” is thrown out of the talks it becomes a little easier to swallow that you ultimately have to come up with a schedule for your kids to see both parents. Time-sharing does not always mean that the parties are going to have equal time with the children, but it does mean that you can think through a schedule that makes sense for the children and the parents.
If you are going through a divorce or paternity case, then you should speak with an experienced family law attorney to better understand your rights and options. Knowing the process can be beneficial in moving the case forward because you can better comprehend what intentions the court may have if you were to go trial.