Determining Parent Visitation Outside the Courtroom
In the case of divorcing spouses with a child or children, the children’s best interest should always prevail. That is the stated goal under Florida law, and ideally, the parents work together to develop a plan in the best interest of their children. With a parenting plan, the judge does not have to intervene to impose a plan that may not work for one or both parents; the judge only needs to approve it.
It is far preferable that the parents agree and work out a parenting plan because they know their child better than the court. The parenting plan should address how the former couple divides responsibilities over the children.
Florida Parenting Plans
The parenting plan specifies how responsibilities will be shared, such as healthcare care, extra-curricular activities, vacation decisions, and the visitation and living arrangement.
Any plan agreed upon must be detailed to leave nothing to chance.
Some of the areas of the agreement should include:
- Which is the primary residence, or does the child live in two homes?
- Who is the primary decision-maker when it comes to education, vacations, and extra-curricular activities?
- A time-sharing plan to outline when the child spends time with each parent
- What religion the child will follow, his diet, medications, and medical care need to be part of the agreement
Primary Residential Parent
There is a lot that separated parents can do to benefit their children. The former spouses should try and maintain a sense of connectedness, no matter how difficult that is. Flexibility and respect might be two goals in maintaining a sense of family union, despite the divorce.
Your parenting plan has determined the primary residential parent – that is – the place where children spend most of their time. Former spouses may have agreed to a time-sharing agreement.
Some things parents can do in the best interest of their children:
Security – Making your child feel loved and wanted should be the goal of both parents, so the child feels secure. That takes some work on the part of the parents. For example, refrain from saying anything bad about the other spouse. Even if you are talking to someone else, your child may be able to hear you, and criticism directed at one parent can undermine a child’s confidence.
Kids Need to Know – That it’s okay to love both parents. Make sure you do not compete with the former spouse regarding money, spending, trips. Do not question your child’s loyalty. Compliment the other spouse and be a cheerleader for their parenting. Consistency will be necessary, as displayed by both parents toward the child. Be on time for any arrangements.
Be Flexible – Most plans go awry at some time or another. Your child will be less stressed if you are flexible and smoothly switch to a Plan B from time to time. Flexibility doesn’t mean you don’t plan, however. Be sure to keep a routine and a checklist of items that will go with your child when they move to activities or the other home.
Show Respect – Keep the other parent informed if a new babysitter or a new romantic partner is in the mix. Each parent needs to know where the child is during a visitation. Provide that parent with phone numbers and the names of friends. Homework assignments, books, clothing tickets personal effects should be part of the visitation, and it’s the primary parent’s responsibility to ensure the child visits with everything they require.
Mothers and fathers are given equal weight when it comes to child custody; however, the Florida Bar reports that mothers receive primary custody in about 90 percent of divorce cases. However, there are always exceptions, especially if there are neglect, abuse, addiction, or abandonment issues from the past.
Your Florida Family Law Attorney
Most often, divorce is not totally amicable, and Florida divorce law can be complicated. Complications can arise, such as enforcing custody when one of the parents wants to move to another state. Parents can use the children to spy on each other or make them feel guilty about being in the other home. One parent may indulge the children in buying their love.
It is time for both sides to put their children first. In a contested divorce with unresolved child custody issues, Crystal Collins Spencer has decades of experience guiding her clients to the best decision for the former spouse and her children. You do not want to make any mistakes during your divorce because they may be difficult to undo. Additionally, family circumstances may change while the children are still minors, and you may need to modify the parenting plan.
Reach out to Crystal Collins Spencer at her Pensacola office at 850-795-4910. She also represents divorcing spouses in Sandestin and Fort Walton Beach.