Dissolution of marriage is a much more complicated process when minor children are involved. Raising children together makes it so that both parties must continue to make contact even after the divorce has been finalized with few exceptions. Child custody, or “time-sharing” as it is now called, is recognized by Florida law as being in the best interests of the child caught in the middle of a divorce or paternity proceeding.
Although each situation is individually assessed, children generally benefit from spending time with both parents frequently and consistently. Florida courts recognized the need for updated language in custody laws. As of 2008, you won’t find the term custody in the statutes. The courts recognize that raising children is a responsibility that must be shared by both parents, regardless of the status of the marriage.
There are two options for determining parental responsibility in Florida:
- Shared parental responsibility: parenting duties are divided and decisions regarding the child, such as education, healthcare, and daily activities, are made together
- Sole parental responsibility: only one parent makes decisions regarding the child’s education, healthcare, and/ or daily activities.
Shared parental responsibility is the law in Florida, unless parents are unable to agree on major decisions. It is at this time that a judge steps in to decide. Florida courts are very sympathetic toward children whose parents file for a dissolution of marriage and hold the child’s best interests above the interests of the divorcing parties. Without any evidence to the contrary, the judge assumes both parents wish to be equally involved in the child’s upbringing.
What are the “Child’s Best Interests”?
During a marriage dissolution, tension runs strong and emotions run high, particularly during custody proceedings. This is usually the most challenging battleground of all divorce or paternity proceedings. Factors considered to determine best interests include:
- The physical and mental health of each parent
- Each parent’s lifestyle
- Each parent’s ability to provide food, shelter, clothing and medical care
- The child’s established living pattern
- The child’s preference to remain with one or the other parent if he or she is mature enough to comprehend the situation
- The child’s age, physical and mental health, and sex
- Domestic violence or child abuse evidence
- Evidence of alcohol or drug abuse
Florida Parenting Plans
In order to provide the best environment possible for a child of divorce Florida law requires parents to create a parenting plan. The parenting plan governs the custodial agreement. Such an agreement includes a time-sharing schedule that outlines how time is divided between each parent and the child. A Florida parenting plan should be created and agreed to by each parent and then should be approved by the court. In situations where parents cannot agree, the court must establish the plan.
What does a Florida Parenting Plan cover?
All parenting plans include the following elements:
- A detailed statement that explains just how each parent will divide parenting responsibilities and tasks
- Arrangements that have been made to accommodate the time-sharing schedule, with specific list of how much time and in what way the time will be spent with the child by each parent
- Naming who will ultimately have the responsibility of making healthcare and school-related decisions, including the designation of the residence that will determine what school district the child attends.
- How each parent will communicate with the child
Divorce proceedings can quickly become overwhelming and even hostile. Seeking the legal counsel of a Miami divorce attorney can smooth things over and expedite the process. With over 50 years of experience pursuing family law, Stephen H. Butter is the attorney you need to help you manage your dissolution. Call him directly at (305) 333-7159.