No family law issue is as emotional as child custody and visitation. When parents separate or divorce, they have to determine how time will be shared with the child. Even in the best-case scenario where the parents get along, this requires careful planning. But this only becomes more difficult when concerns over the child’s welfare or a parent’s fitness are involved.
Whether your child custody matter is contentious or amicable, you need a knowledgeable family law attorney who will work to protect your and your child’s best interests. Count on Orlando Family Team.
The Court’s Primary Concern In Custody and Visitation Matters
When it comes to child custody and visitation, judges are primarily concerned about the child’s best interests. Although parents naturally want as much time with their children as possible, this alone does not guide the judge. Custody and visitation are emotional, so much that even well-meaning parents don’t always view their cases with the objectivity needed to make good decisions. Without the best interests standard, these unchecked emotions could harm the child.
Generally speaking, courts want both parents to be involved in the child’s life. How that actually translates into a specific custody and visitation schedule, while keeping the child’s best interests in mind, is the challenge of every custody and visitation case. There’s no single definition of “best interests,” so the application of that standard will vary from one case to another. But these are a few factors the court will consider:
- The fitness of both parents
- Any evidence of a parent’s drug or alcohol abuse
- Any evidence of child abuse, neglect, or domestic violence
- Both parents’ jobs and other time commitments
- The physical and mental health of both parents
- Religious and cultural considerations
- The involvement of extended family
- The child’s wishes, if mature enough
- A child’s special needs
Aspects Of Florida Child Custody
Most parents think of custody as how much time both parents will spend with their child. This is known as physical custody, sometimes referred to as time-sharing. A schedule will be established which determines which parent will be given primary custody and which will be given visitation. This schedule will also dictate overnights, time spent on weekends, and holiday and vacation time.
Physical custody is not the only issue that has to be decided, however. Legal custody, also known as parental responsibility and decision-making, is a crucial and sometimes overlooked issue. This aspect of child custody concerns how the parents will share authority over the child’s education, religious upbringing, healthcare, and other significant issues.
One particularly important matter that must be addressed is how information about the child will be shared between the parents. Both parents have the right to know about any illnesses, accidents, educational problems, and other issues the child may experience, so the parents have to decide how and when to exchange such information.
Establishing A Parenting Plan
Parents have the right to agree upon a parenting plan that addresses the above physical and legal custody and visitation matters. The court will approve the plan, provided it is in the child’s best interests. If the parents are unable to come up with a plan themselves, the court will create one. To address the issues listed above, the parenting plan needs to cover:
- How much time the child will spend with both parents, including specifics like holidays and vacations
- How and when the child will be exchanged between parents, e.g. pick-up and drop-off locations
- Which parent will make educational and healthcare decisions, or if the authority will be shared
- How and when both parents will communicate with the child when the child is with the other parent
- How decisions involving the child’s extracurricular activities will be made
Parenting plans cannot possibly anticipate every single issue that will arise between the parents and with the child. But a good parenting plan provides the framework needed to facilitate productive communication between the parents and address any potential disputes.
Options For Resolving Custody
The best-case scenario for both parents and the child is an out-of-court settlement of custody matters through negotiation. This may take the form of mediation, or for married couples, something more comprehensive like a collaborative divorce. Our attorneys are experienced child custody negotiators and will work to resolve your custody issue as efficiently as the circumstances allow.
Of course, negotiation doesn’t work for every custody matter. If there are allegations of abuse or neglect, or the other parent refuses to cooperate, litigation will more likely be necessary. We vigorously represent the rights and interests of our clients and their children in court. We can also explore whether a guardian ad litem may be advisable in your particular case.
Contact Our Orlando Child Custody And Visitation Attorney
While custody and visitation cases can be stressful, Orlando Family Team is here to make the process less burdensome on you. We don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach but instead will take the time to understand your unique parenting situation and the concerns you have about your child. You can count on our compassionate and knowledgeable approach to handling your custody and visitation matter. Give us a call today to learn more.