Divorcing parents are often preoccupied with ensuring they maintain their connections with their children. You might fear it will be difficult to remain an involved parent and nurture a meaningful relationship with your children when you live apart from them. When this happens, seek help from an experienced family lawyer.
In the past, courts often awarded custody to one parent and the other parent would have only limited time with their kids. Now, the law recognizes children benefit from substantial contact with both parents.
A Fort Lauderdale visitation lawyer can explain how the law governs co-parenting and what is expected of parents. They can assist you in developing a workable parenting plan and offer advice if you are concerned about your co-parent’s fitness.
The Law Favors Balanced Time Sharing
As the laws around parenting have evolved, the terminology has also changed. What used to be called “custody and visitation” is now called “parental time-sharing.” The term “legal custody” was previously the term used to describe the right to make important decisions concerning a child, but that is now called “parental decision-making.”
Florida Statute § 61.13 describes how courts decide issues about where a child lives and how much time they spend with their other parent. The law presumes it is best for children if they have roughly equal time with each parent, unless a parent can prove otherwise. When parents cannot share time equally, the law favors arrangements where each parent has substantial time with their children.
Judges strongly prefer parents deciding how they will split time with their children and share decision-making authority. A Fort Lauderdale attorney can help a parent negotiate a visitation plan and present it to the court.
Serving the Children’s Best Interests
The law requires parents to submit a detailed parenting plan that addresses issues like how much time the children will spend with each parent, where they will spend holidays, and which parent’s address will be used for school registration. Ideally, parents will agree on a plan and submit it to the court jointly. If they cannot agree, each parent must submit their own plan and a Judge will decide.
A Judge will evaluate a plan according to whether it serves the children’s best interests, including the visitation aspect. Even when parents agree on a plan, a Judge could reject it if it emphasizes the convenience for the parents rather than the benefit of the children. When deciding the children’s best interests, the law directs the Judge to consider many factors, including:
- Physical and mental health of each parent;
- Stability of the home each parent can provide;
- Capacity of each parent to provide a safe and loving home;
- How much involvement each parent had in the children’s lives before the separation;
- Each parent’s ability to meet the child’s physical, emotional, and educational needs; and
- Willingness and ability of each parent to support the children’s relationship with the other parent.
A Judge could also consider the children’s preferences, but they are not required to honor the child’s wishes.
Parents often need help developing a parenting plan that meets legal requirements. Mediation and other services can assist parents in negotiating their visitation plan. A Fort Lauderdale visitation lawyer can commit an arrangement to writing and help ensure it is approved in court.
Denying Visitation to the Other Parent
Sometimes, one parent wants to limit the children’s contact with the other parent. In these cases, the parent wanting to limit contact must prove the other parent cannot provide a safe environment.
When a parent has been convicted of certain crimes against children, Florida Statute § 61.13 allows a Judge to assume they cannot provide an appropriate home. However, the parent with the conviction can present evidence demonstrating they are able to parent their children safely. A documented history of domestic violence, ongoing criminal activity, or current untreated mental health problems or substance abuse could persuade a Judge to limit their visitation time.
Judges rarely deny contact between a parent and their children, even when there is evidence the parent cannot care for them. In most cases, a Judge will order supervised visits. A visitation lawyer in Fort Lauderdale can help a parent create a compelling argument regarding access to the children.
Work With a Fort Lauderdale Attorney to Resolve Visitation Issues Today
The well-being of your children is probably your foremost concern when you separate or divorce. The law also puts your children’s welfare first.
A Fort Lauderdale visitation lawyer at The Florida Probate & Family Law Firm can guide you as you settle visitation issues and develop a parenting plan. Call our office today to schedule a free case evaluation.