What You Need to Know about Divorcing with Children
Conceding a marriage is not working is extremely difficult to admit to one’s partner, but having to tell a child that his/her parents are no longer together is difficult on an entirely different level. Divorce is complicated enough on its own, but adding children into the mix does present additional challenges for many couples. Balancing the needs of the child, the ability to cooperate with the other parent, and the requirements of the law is not easy, and is almost certain to test everyone’s limits at some point. This is a situation divorcing parents face as they move through this process, but understanding what the court will expect to see, as well as some practical realities of sharing custody of the child, should help to alleviate some the strain. An overview of how parenting responsibilities are divided in divorce, and some tips on navigating this issue, will be discussed below.
Child Custody Generally
Child custody is now divided into two categories, (the concepts and rules related to primary and secondary custodial parents are no longer in place) – time-sharing and decision-making responsibilities. These two vital aspects of caring for a child must be outlined in a parenting plan, which is submitted to the court for its approval or is imposed by the judge if the parents cannot formulate one on their own. Parenting plans are a roadmap for how parents will divide caretaking duties, share time with the child, and coordinate communication between the child and each parent. Well-crafted parenting plans will also include mechanisms for resolving disagreements, and provide a very detailed time-sharing schedule that allows some flexibility for last minute changes or unexpected trips.
Florida law heavily favors shared parental responsibility, and only in extreme cases of abuse or neglect will give one parent sole responsibility for the child. One parent may receive more parenting time, but frequent contact is the goal, so scheduled weeknight visits and overnights are common features of a contemporary parenting arrangements. Further, all parenting plans must support the best interests of the child, a standard that all child-related matters must meet, and the judge will evaluate whether a proposed parenting plan adequately takes the child’s welfare into account. Florida law lays out a long list of factors to help the judge decide if the best interests of the child are being protected, and a few examples of these factors include:
- Each parent’s ability to promote a close relationship between the child and other parent;
- The ability of each parent to put the child’s need first;
- The stability of the child’s current environment;
- The logistical viability of the parenting plan;
- The moral fitness of the parents; and
- The parents mental and physical health.
Practical Tips to Facilitate Agreement
People do not get divorced because they still like each other, but if they have children, they will need to find a way to work together to effectively co-parent. The first key to negotiating exactly how to set that up involves putting the child’s needs first, and finding a time-sharing arrangement that accommodates their age and activity commitments. For example, an infant will need more time with the mother versus an older child, who will benefit from seeing both parents regularly. In addition, find a method of communication that both parents can accept and is effective at keeping each other up-to-date and informed. Online calendars, emails, texts, and software programs that track schedules, expenses, and important documents all provide good options to meet this need. Finally, things change over time, and these plans periodically need to reviewed and updated to meet current needs. Do not wait until a conflict or crisis occurs – be proactive and address possible issues in advance.
Get Legal Advice
Managing the fallout of divorce with children can be difficult, but not impossible, if you know what the court will expect, and what is best for child. The attorneys at the office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. understand how contentious this issue can become, and will work to help clients find viable solutions. Contact the Fort Lauderdale law firm for a free consultation.