Sharing children with someone you do not live with is challenging for everyone involved, including the children. It can be difficult but necessary to make an appropriate custody plan that supports your children’s well-being.
You are most likely to develop a workable custody arrangement when both parents are committed to sharing time with the children and supporting each other as parents. When mutual support or good communication is lacking, timesharing negotiations could get heated.
A West Miami child custody lawyer can help you and your co-parent formulate a timesharing plan that works for everyone. Working with an experienced family attorney can ensure your arrangement will be acceptable to the court.
What the Law Says About Child Custody
Florida Statute § 61.13 controls parental responsibility and timesharing, the two aspects of custody. It favors both parents having significant involvement in the children’s lives and does not presume that just the mother or father is best equipped to raise the children.
Parental responsibility means making decisions for the children regarding big issues like their education, healthcare, religion, and the activities they engage in. The law says the parents should make these decisions jointly under most circumstances.
If one parent was convicted of specific crimes, the law presumes the parent is unfit for parental responsibility, although an affected parent could try to argue otherwise. A West Miami attorney can explain whether seeking sole parental responsibility for child custody is a good strategy.
Timesharing refers to the number of nights the children sleep in each parent’s home. Parents can split time evenly if their work schedules and other commitments allow. If not, any plan that works for both parents and the children, and allows each parent to maintain a significant relationship with each child, is likely acceptable. A Judge will usually approve any timesharing schedule the parents create if it serves the children’s best interests.
Even when parents share time equally, one parent is the “residential parent.” That parent’s home address is the children’s official address for school registration, medical records, and other purposes.
Developing a Parenting Plan in West Miami
The law requires parents to develop a detailed parenting plan describing their co-parenting arrangements. The plan must cover which parent will be the residential parent, which will pay child support, and where the children will spend their time.
A Judge must review a parenting plan and confirm that it describes where the children stay on weeknights, weekends, and where they will spend holidays. The parenting plan should name who is responsible for transportation to and from school and activities, who is responsible for meals on nights when the children transfer homes, and similar details.
Judges encourage parents to develop their parenting plan together through negotiation. If they cannot do so, they could try to formulate a plan with a mediator, or a West Miami child custody attorney could negotiate with the co-parent’s lawyer. The parties could ask the court to appoint a parent coordinator to help them develop a plan agreeable to both sides.
What Happens if Parents Cannot Agree?
When the parents are unable to decide on a parenting plan, and working with a parenting coordinator is unsuccessful, the Judge will impose a plan that considers the children’s best interests. The parents’ wishes are secondary. The law lists multiple factors a Judge could consider when determining how parents should share time with their children, which include the following:
- Each parent’s willingness and ability to prioritize their children’s needs over their own;
- How much time each parent has for the children and how much each parent might rely on third-party caregivers;
- Mental and physical health and moral fitness of each parent;
- Each parent’s familiarity with the children’s likes, dislikes, teachers, activities, and friends;
- Whether a parent can support the children’s relationships with the other parent;
- Each parent’s ability to provide an appropriate routine, discipline, and structure.
When a child is mature enough to express a reasoned opinion, a Judge could consider their preferences when creating a parenting plan.
Although parents could modify a court-imposed parenting plan, they cannot do so immediately. In most cases, they must wait two years to request a modification. It is worthwhile for parents to work closely with a West Miami attorney to create a parenting plan themselves. Otherwise, they might have to follow a plan that does not work well for them for a significant period.
Work with a West Miami Child Custody Attorney on Parental Timesharing Issues
If you and a co-parent live separately, you need to develop a parenting plan detailing how you will share custody and decision-making responsibilities. Even if you are not getting along, it is wise to put disagreements aside temporarily to focus on what is best for your children.