Paternity cases and divorces involving children revolve around the best interest of the child standard in Florida. Over the years, the Florida legislature has attempted to make the process less adversarial as it relates to child issues like custody, visitation and parental responsibility. In its attempt at doing so, the legislature changed a number of things including the terms used, so instead of visitation we now say, “time-sharing plan,” and instead of custody we say, “primary time-sharing parent.” As a Jacksonville divorce and family law attorney, this change in terminology helps, but it does not resolve the issues that surround such legal actions because parents do not want typically want to go days without seeing their children when it comes down to development of a time-sharing plan, so the Court can appoint a parenting plan coordinator to evaluate the parents, the children, the environments and then make a recommendation to the court based on that evaluation.
A parenting plan coordinator is available through Florida Statutes, and can be appointed by the Court upon a party’s motion. Often, the coordinator is a psychologist trained to deal with family matters, such as those related to a divorce or paternity case. Also, the coordinator’s background in psychology lends way to his/her understanding for an in depth analysis of the parties as they relate to the children. Ultimately, the parenting coordinator is tasked with the job of evaluating both parties and the children to determine what is in the best interest of the children as it relates to a parenting and time-sharing plan.
A parenting coordinator is a nice tool to use during a divorce or paternity case when the parties do not agree upon visitation. The parenting coordinator is able to do a more detailed analysis of the parents and their relationship with the children and help the Court and the parties see what may truly be best for the children. Since the coordinator typically meets with the children outside of the presence of the parties, the coordinator has an opportunity to hear the children’s concerns and interests for their own futures, thus giving them a voice. Since children do not get to testify in Court unless they are deemed an age and maturity to handle the situation, often the coordinator is the kid’s only line to the judge. Determining the best interest for children is not an easy task, so arming yourself with a coordinator that can look at all sides of the situation and provide an objective perspective can be a very useful tool when dealing with such matters.
Based on Florida Statute 61.122, the parenting coordinator is believed to be operating in good faith on behalf of the Court and not on behalf of a party. If one party does not believe that the parenting coordinator acted or operated in good faith, then Florida Statute 61.122 allows for that party to file an administrative complaint with the judge. If good cause is shown to the Court that the psychologist was not operating in good faith, then the Court may appoint another coordinator to complete the evaluation.