Over the past 30 years, significant research has emerged about the effects of divorce and custody disputes on children. As you might imagine, children are negatively impacted by parents who fight frequently and cannot work together for the good of their shared child. In light of this information, Florida has changed the way custody disputes are handled with a primary focus on the rights of the child to a happy, healthy upbringing. The terms “sole custody” and “shared custody” have been replaced with “time-sharing” and “responsibility-sharing” to shift focus away from the (outdated) concept that a particular parent should have control over a child to the new way of thinking revolving around the child’s right to a healthy relationship with both parents.
Time & Responsibility-Sharing Decisions are Based on the Best Interests of the Child
Florida courts take a number of factors into consideration when determining how time and responsibility should be shared between two households. While custody disputes used to entail lengthy arguments over which party deserved to have the child more, based on their personal actions during and after the relationship-the primary focus of custody decisions is now centered around the best interests of the child, not necessarily the rights of the parent. When determining the best interests of a child a court may consider factors such as:
- Fitness of the parents
- Character and reputation of the parties
- Desire of the natural parents and any agreements between them
- Potential for maintaining natural family relations
- Preference of the child, when child is of sufficient age/capacity to form a rational judgment
- Material opportunities affecting the future life of the child
- Age/health/sex of the child
- Residences of the parents and opportunity for visitation
This list is intended to provide a sampling of some “best interest” factors, but there are many more factors which can be taken into consideration. An experienced attorney can help you better understand and prepare for family court by advising you of all the factors Florida judges take into consideration.
Detailed Co-Parenting Plans are the New Norm
Cooperative parenting is viewed as more beneficial to children than competitive parenting. Cooperative parents work together in raising their child(ren), communicate regularly, establish consistency between homes, and make major decisions together. Co-parenting plans facilitate this type of parenting and Florida has made detailed parenting plans an essential part of any custody determination.
A parenting plan is a written (and legally enforceable) agreement between both parents outlining their preferred time-sharing schedule (when the child will be with each parent) and how the parents will make decisions about the health, education, and welfare of the child. With a well-written plan, you, your child, and your ex will know what to expect so there can be fewer conflicts about time-sharing and decision-making.
Raising a child cooperatively with an ex can be riddled with challenges. You don’t have to navigate this emotional roller-coaster on your own, though. Family attorneys have seen the ins-and-outs of custody disputes and know what it takes to make a successful co-parenting plan that will fit the specifics of your situation. An experienced family attorney can help you predict potential areas of conflict, reach agreements with your ex, and commit them to writing in a legally enforceable contract.