Florida divorces involving children can be time-consuming and involve a significant amount of money, simply because the parents refuse to compromise or attempt to make a plan that benefits all parties. Child custody (or what is now referred to as timesharing with minor children in Florida) is one of the most highly contested aspects of any divorce. It can be costly or as inexpensive as needed, based on the parties actions and decisions during the divorce process.
The state of Florida does not have a presumption in favor of women in regards to timesharing with minor children. Instead, the Court will apply a “best interest” test to help determine who is the most appropriate parent for the minor child(ren) to live with. It is not uncommon to see psychiatrists, psychologists, etc., being brought in to help examine the situation and help the Court decide what’s best for the minor children. While sometimes the Court will agree to equal visitation time between parents, it generally will not if it interferes with a child’s schooling or emotional health. More often than not, the time will be split unevenly to allow the child to be closest to their school for the majority of the time.
This can obviously cause a rift in visitation rights. Many parents want to spend as much time as they possibly can with their kids, and the Courts normally want to strike a balance between the needs of the child(ren) and the work schedule of the parents. This way, parents are able to be there with their children for a majority of the time they have them and encourage a healthy, balanced relationship with both parents. This is why a Florida Divorce Parenting Class is required in every divorce when children are involved.
For the most part, Florida law works to utilize “Shared Parental Responsibility,” which means that even if a child lives with only one parent, the other parent still has an equal say in how their child(ren) are raised. That means that each party has a say in their child’s education, disciplinary practices, health, etc. Of course, if the parties can’t agree, then the Courts will decide on their behalf.
Florida law also requires parenting plans be created for each divorce where children are involved. This plan requires a timesharing schedule be included and also helps govern the relationship between both parents regarding decisions made for the children. It has to be approved by the court and can be forcibly created by the courts if the parents can’t agree on a plan. A recommendation can come into play if certain aspects of the plan aren’t being followed. While it is a non-binding recommendation, if one or more aspects of a parenting plan come under concern, a court-appointed mental health practitioner might still conduct an investigation into the social situation.
Our final topic today deals with the relocation of one or more of the parents. If a parent wants to move to a different town, city, state, etc., then there are some very specific rules to follow in order to get that relocation approved. A relocation is any move that is more than fifty (50) miles or more away. Both parents can agree to a relocation, but if an agreement is not reached, then the relocating parents will have to file a petition to relocate. Moving with a child without prior agreement or approval can find you in contempt and require an order for the return of the child, as well as other consequences.
As you can see, divorces with minor children can be confusing and stressful. Reach out to your local Florida divorce lawyer for more information on how to make the process as smooth and stress-free as possible.