Deciding where children will live when their parents split up is often one of the most difficult and time-consuming parts of separating. Child custody issues often trigger intense emotions that can be challenging to navigate.

If you and your co-parent are divorcing or separating, speak with a Coconut Grove child custody lawyer who can explain the law and what your custody plan must contain. A trustworthy family attorney can guide your negotiations if you and your co-parent cannot agree, and fight for you in court, if necessary.

The Law Favors Both Parents’ Involvement

Many people think mothers have a better chance of custody than fathers, but that is not true. The law requires Judges to consider both parents’ rights to spend time with their children.

The current terms for child custody in Florida are “timesharing” or “parenting time.” The law considers shared parenting time better for children unless one parent presents a valid reason why the co-parent should not have considerable time with the children. Shared parenting time does not always mean a 50/50 split, but both parents should have as much time with the children as their schedules allow.

One parent will be the residential parent for official purposes like school registration and medical records. In most cases, both parents will share responsibility for deciding important issues like religion, healthcare, and education. Each parent can decide about bedtime, homework, screen time, and minor disciplinary matters when the child is at their home.

Courts Must Review the Parenting Plan

Parents who live apart must have a parenting plan. Judges strongly prefer that parents work together to create it, although a Judge will ultimately create a parenting plan when the parents cannot agree. From the parents’ point of view, designing the parenting plan allows them to control their relationships with their children instead of a Judge deciding.

Florida Statutes § 61.13(2)(b) describes what the parents must include in their plan. Some of the necessary components include:

  • The timesharing schedule, including how the parents will divide time with the children on holidays;
  • How the parents will handle decisions for the child;
  • Whether both parents can consent to healthcare for the child or only one;
  • How the parents plan to divide the day-to-day responsibilities of raising a child;
  • How each parent may communicate with the child, such as by text, cell phone, or video call.

Although building some flexibility into the parenting plan is important to allow for unexpected developments, the more detailed the parents can be in their plan, the better.

When parents cannot agree, a Coconut Grove child custody attorney could negotiate with the co-parent’s lawyer to reach a compromise. Once the parents have decided on a plan, they must submit it to the Judge for review. If the Judge believes the plan supports the child’s best interest, the court will approve the plan and make it an enforceable court order.

The Child’s Best Interest Governs Every Decision

Whenever a Judge decides anything that has a direct impact on a child, they must consider the child’s best interests. The parents’ wishes or needs take a back seat to what is best for the child.

Courts can look at whatever factors seem important when deciding what is in a child’s interest. When they consider custody issues, the law suggests they could consider, among other factors:

  • Each parent’s relationship with the child and experience as a caretaker;
  • How well each parent could adhere to the time-sharing schedule;
  • Each parent’s ability to put the child’s needs ahead of their own;
  • Each parent’s mental and physical health;
  • How involved has each parent been with the child’s school, activities, friends, and interests, and their ability to be involved and support those interests;
  • Each parent’s ability to support the child’s positive relationship with the co-parent.

A court could take a child’s preferences into account but will not necessarily decide as the child wishes. Sometimes it could be difficult for a parent with a strong opinion about what is best for their child to understand how a Judge could see the matter differently. Talking through the issue with a Coconut Grove child custody attorney could bring some clarity.

Contact a Coconut Grove Child Custody Attorney for Help Today

Nothing is more important than your children’s welfare. Assuring their well-being when the parents live apart is a difficult but essential task. A Coconut Grove child custody lawyer can answer all your questions and help you make a parenting plan that serves your children well. Call us today to set up a time to talk to The Florida Probate & Family Law Firm during a free consultation.