An earlier article described the best interest of the child standard (“Florida Statute §61.13(3)”) and gave definitions for terminology used in paternity actions or divorce proceedings where children are involved. This article will discuss how judges apply the best interest factors to cases and to avoid common pitfalls as you navigate your way through a proceeding where a parenting plan or timesharing is an issue.
When determining a timesharing schedule, judges consider each relevant factor in the best interest standard to the facts in the case in front of them. For example, one of the factors in the best interest standard is the capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child or children from the ongoing litigation. Judges consider whether the parents discuss the litigation with the child, share documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refrain disparaging comments about the other parent to the child. Judges do not view parents who involve their children in their court proceedings kindly. A common pitfall that many parents fall into is to do exactly that – to involve their children in the court proceeding. Some tell children what is happening in their case or in the courthouse. Some make negative comments about the other parent. Avoid doing either! Although a small, offhand comment may seem innocuous, doing so may well work to your detriment. At the very least, if the judge hears evidence of one party speaking negatively about the other to or in front of the parties’ children, he or she will think twice about making rulings regarding timesharing in that party’s favor.
Will you lose your children? It is unlikely. The ultimate decision is in the hands of the judge who is presiding over your case. It is helpful to know the factors that the judge will use in determining a timesharing schedule which will govern the time you spend with your child or children. To ensure that you will be able to spend substantial time with your children, and to make sure you do not take actions that will negatively impact your timesharing case, be sure to retain the services of a highly qualified family law attorney to help you and your family through this process.