What to Think About When Thinking About Your Kids During Divorce
Divorce will put a hold on many things in life, but kids must not fall into this category. In the time it takes for spouses to finalize their separation in and out of the courtroom, their children must be cared for, taken to school, fed, and otherwise prioritized. At the end of the divorce proceedings, a common assumption is that the custody decision is handed down and the new parenting arrangement is adopted. Today, this is mostly true. However, the state of Florida no longer endorses the concept of custody, instead favoring the idea of “Time Sharing.”
What Is Time Sharing?
Under current Florida Statutes “Time Sharing” is now the term used to define what was formerly called “custody,” “sole custody,” and “joint custody.” A parent who holds the majority of the shared time is said to be the “Primary Residential Parent.” In this sense, what was formerly known as “Visitation” by the non-primary parent is simply termed “Time Sharing” today. All proceedings in Boca Raton and West Palm Beach fall under these statutes.
What Is The Court’s Role?
Under Florida Statutes, Section 63.13(3), the court places “The best interests of the child” as the sole intent of ruling. An ideal outcome by many Florida courts will result in equitable parenting responsibility. If such an accord is struck the goal is an arrangement in which the two parties share basic parenting rights and responsibilities—compromise is needed for any major “life decisions” affecting child health, education, religious beliefs, and so on.
In the eyes of Florida courts no parent holds “more” rights to a child than their counterpart, yet exceptions to equitable time sharing are taken into account when a parent has a documented history of unruly behavior. In such cases, time sharing may require supervision or be limited altogether.
In determining whether a parent is fit to act as guardian, the court considers 20 different factors identified under Section 63.13(3) of the Florida Statutes. These include the ability of each parent to have a close relationship with the child, where the child goes to school, whether child care would be needed, the physical and mental health of each parent, the child’s preference, and similar areas of consideration.
What About Financial Obligation?
Depending on the age of children at the dissolution of marriage, the care and financial obligation for each child varies case by case. The amount of financial support necessary is defined by the financial situation of each parent:
- Section 61.30 of the Florida Statutes sets forth a schedule of child support payments based on the number of children and parental income. Factors that may add or subtract from the recommended guideline amount include any special needs the child may have, each parent’s financial status and ability to pay, and the number of overnight visits the child spends with each parent.
What Are The Exceptions?
A parent must obey the ruling of the court and ensure equitable time sharing takes place. Neither party may prevent the other parent from their legal right to visit and oversee their child’s well-being. However, in the case of child abuse, endangerment or violence the court may enter to issue a protective order. This is also common when alcohol or drug abuse is identified in a parent’s life.
A very important consideration to keep in mind is that non-payment of child support does not give one parent the right to block visitation from the other parent. Although the payment amount is in consideration of allotted time sharing, it is not a parent’s decision to adjust time sharing rights due to non-payment of child support.
Finally, any instance of child endangerment due to the physical or mental health of the child will be considered grounds for the court to terminate time sharing. This is the case in obvious matters, such as domestic and sexual violence, as well as circumtances that inhibit the emotional development of a child. If a court finds shared responsibility and time sharing to be of detriment to the child, then it may decide on an alternative to equal time sharing among both parents.
The State of Florida
Ultimately it is every court’s goal to diagnose and encourage a healthy dynamic between parents following divorce, thus ensuring the most beneficial environment for their children. Parents will be evaluated for their willingness to participate and communicate during all court proceedings, as well as other indications of parenting style and moral fitness. In proceeding with divorce in Boca Raton and West Palm Beach, it is important to enlist the help of counsel that is experienced and successful in Florida divorce proceedings and who knows the ins and outs of parental plan development.