If you are going through a divorce or are living in separate places, not seeing your children can cause immense emotional distress for the parents and the children. The effects that a divorce can have on your children may include academic, psychological, and behavioral setbacks. It is Florida’s public policy that all decisions concerning a divorcing couple’s minor children should be made in the children’s best interest. The primary goal is to ensure that the children’s happiness, emotional and mental wellbeing are met.
A parenting plan approved by Florida court must, at a minimum:
- Describe in adequate detail how the parents will share and be responsible for the daily tasks associated with the upbringing of the child.
- Include the time-sharing schedule arrangements that specify the time that the minor child will spend with each parent.
- Designate who will be responsible for:
- Any and all forms of health care. If the court orders shared parental responsibility over health care decisions, the parenting plan must provide that either parent may consent to mental health treatment for the child.
- School-related matters, including the address to be used for school-boundary determination and registration.
- Other activities; and
- Describe in adequate detail the methods and technologies that the parents will use to communicate with the child. See Florida Statutes §61.13(2)(b).
For the sake of your children and to maintain a civilized relationship with your former spouse or partner, it is recommended that each parent:
- Never conceal the whereabouts of any children of the couple.
- Never do anything to separate or alienate the child from the other parent.
- Never make any derogatory remarks about the other parent, the other parent’s family or new partner in the presence of the child, nor allow others to do so.
- Maintain a log book that can be sent back and forth with the child, to keep each parent informed at all times of the residential address, email address, and phone numbers where the children will be staying at, as well as notes to record information related to any issues or concerns that can arise while the child is staying at either parents’ place.
- Try their best to be respectful and polite when communicating with the other parent and make an effort to be punctual in transferring the children.
- Notify the other parent as soon as possible of any emergency concerning to any of the couple’s children, and
- Promote and encourage the love, respect and appreciation of the child for the other parent.
Normally, parents will shared parental responsibility and have equal time-sharing with their children unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility and equal time-sharing would be detrimental to the children.
For example, allegations or previous instances of domestic violence, child abuse or neglect, untreated mental disorders, use of drug and alcohol, etc. may make a judge decide that supervised visitation between the parent and child is in the child’s best interest. Depending on the parties situation, a court may impose conditions on the exercise of time-sharing or require that time-sharing with the child be supervised until the court finds that supervision is no longer necessary. If a third party agency is involved in supervising the time-sharing they may be additional costs for the supervised parent.
Every child has the right to spend substantial, quality time with both parents, so reasonable time-sharing with any children of the couple must occur following the time-sharing schedule agreed on. Working together with your former spouse as co-parents and agreeing to a time-sharing schedule that’s in the best interest of your children is always the best approach, as well as being supportive, respectful and flexible, act in good faith and consent to all reasonable time-sharing requests by the other parent. When developing a time-sharing schedule try to set aside the feelings you may have for your former spouse and focus on the love you have for your children and think of what is in their best interest. Use common sense when deciding holidays and important events, for example: Letting your children spend Mother’s Day with the mother and Father’s Day with the father makes a lot of sense.
When the child is time-sharing with the one parent, the child should have access to a phone, email or other type of communication, including audiovisual contact via Facetime, WhatsApp, Skype, etc. so that the child can communicate with the other parent at any reasonable time. Parents should not monitor, intercept, interrupt, read or listen to communications between the child and the other parent, unless authorized by a Court order. If a parent takes away phone privileges as a form of punishment, that parent should provide the child other ways to contact with the other parent as described.
Creating a time-sharing schedules that is in the best interest of your child is not an easy task. We are here to help you. If you and your former spouse are unable to reach a mutually agreeable parenting plan or need assistance with creating or modifying a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule, please call us at (954) 920-9220. At Seff & Capizzi Law Group we have over 40 years of combined experience and offer a free consultation. Click here for more information about our family law practice and how Seff & Capizzi can help.