Preserving a relationship with your child after divorce
For Florida parents who are going through a divorce, their primary concerns are the effect it is having on the children and how to maintain a loving relationship with them in the future. Parents filter a moment in time such as divorce through the lens of many life experiences. But for children, divorce is cataclysmic. Because they grow so quickly, even a short separation from one parent will dramatically shift that relationship dynamic.
Fortunately, Florida courts prioritize the connection of the parents to their children as much as possible, except in cases of domestic violence or child abuse. For Lakeland area families, understanding the available options for parenting time is critical when making important custody decisions.
Creating a parenting plan
Florida courts encourage parents going through divorce to create a unique parenting plan that supports what is in the best interests of the child. The Sunshine State’s Standard Parenting Time Plan is a framework that parents can use to create a plan that suits their unique situation. Under this standard template, a suggested parenting time schedule for a non-custodial parent could mean:
- Every other weekend.
- One weekend per week.
- Thanksgiving break on even-numbered years.
- Winter and Spring breaks alternating on odd- and even-numbered years.
- Summer break for two weeks.
Any plan will accommodate the scheduling limitations or availability of each parent, but it must prioritize the emotional and developmental needs of the child.
Understanding the concept of timesharing
Florida courts strongly encourage co-parenting as the ideal resolution of custody issues when possible. As a result, the courts focus on timesharing decisions rather than sole custody awards. In a timesharing arrangement, neither parent is the custodial parent, but they both have equal rights to timesharing as outlined in the parenting plan.
When the parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, the court will step in to determine an arrangement based on factors that are in the best interest of the child, including:
- The level of responsibility or availability each parent wishes to have in the child’s life.
- Parental responsibilities before the divorce.
- The stability of the child’s current environment and how timesharing will affect this.
- Geographic barriers that may limit contact of one parent.
The courts will view any evidence of domestic violence seriously and will prioritize the safety of the child in such situations. Likewise, Florida courts will take steps to prevent one parent from attempting to alienate the other parent’s relationship with the child.