When you have children, they become the most important aspect of your life. The thought of not being able to see your child or children whenever you want is heartbreaking, scary and confusing. Whether you are going through a divorce or a paternity action, knowing the possible custody or visitation outcomes is important and may ease your fears. Even after reviewing this article, you should consider hiring an experienced family law lawyer to help you through this process.
First, it is important to know definitions. The list below will serve as a helpful bank for terms that will be frequently used by your lawyer and the court system:
Paternity: A legal proceeding where a man is determined to be the legal Father of a child.
Divorce: A legal proceeding used to end a marriage. The goal in a divorce is to end the partnership and allow both parties to live separate and apart for the remainder of their lives.
Timesharing: Timesharing used to be called “custody” and refers to the division of time a child spends between parents who no longer live together.
Parenting Plan: A document that governs the relationship and time-sharing schedule between the parents and children.
Best Interest of the Child: A set of factors courts use to determine parental responsibility and an appropriate timesharing schedule.
Parental Responsibility:Determines that one or both parents maintain full parental rights and responsibilities with respect to their child.
In Florida, there is currently no presumption for or against timesharing with either parent. Broward County judges prefer starting from a 50/50 timesharing schedule but each judge must utilize the best interest of the child standard (Florida Statute §61.13(3)) when determining parental responsibility and an appropriate parenting plan. The factors in the best interest statute include but are not limited to the age of the child or children, the mental and psychical health of the parents, the home, school and community record of the child, the length of time the child has lived in a stable environment and desirability of maintaining continuity, and the capacity of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.
Tune in next week to read about how the best interests of the child factors are applied. If you need more information now, be sure to contact a qualified family law lawyer in Broward or Palm Beach County to answer your questions.