Traditionally, couples who were facing divorce with children regularly heard terms such as "sole custody" or "visitation." While these ideas often still apply in many situations, Florida law has been updated in recent years to change the way custody arrangements work.
Prior to 2008, one parent was often known as the "custodial parent" and the other as the "non-custodial parent." Other terms used included "primary residential parent" and "secondary residential parent," which meant the children lived with one parent most of the time and visited the other periodically. The timeline and frequency of such visits were set out in a "visitation plan."
Though not always the case, the "custodial parent" was often the mother, while the father was granted visitation rights. These old terms perpetuated the traditional--and old-fashioned--view that it was in the best interest of the children to live primarily with the mother.
New Terms of the Statute
In 2008, Florida legislators addressed the somewhat antiquated statute to respect the fact that both mothers and fathers have equal parental rights and responsibilities. Additionally, the updated law seems to imply that the default view should be that equal parenting is in the best interest of the child, unless evidence is presented otherwise.
The term "visitation plan" is no longer used in Florida, as it was replaced by both "parenting plan" and "time-sharing schedule." The emphasis is now not on a short visit with a father or non-custodial parent, but on the fact that both parents will share comparable time with their child. Additionally, instead of merely setting a schedule to shuttle children back and forth, parenting plans must take a much more in-depth look at how each parent will relate to the child and contribute to the care of the child.
In fact, under the law, a parenting plan must cover the following topics:
· How each parent will be responsible for and share in daily tasks relevant to the upbringing and care of the child;
· Which parent will be in charge of health care matters for the child;
· Which parent's address will be used for school and education purposes;
· How the parents will decide education and school-related issues;
· The technology and methods that will be used for each parent to regularly communicate with their child; and
· The time-sharing schedule.
Furthermore, there may be greater flexibility when the provisions of a parenting or time-sharing plan are not exactly consistent with the parent's or child's needs. In old laws, a modification by the courts was required to make any changes to the custodial arrangement. The updated law recognizes that situations may change and requires each parent to "be reasonable" if the other parent requires a change in the parenting plan.
Alan R. Burton is an experienced family law attorney dedicated to helping families and couples in Boca Raton and Ft. Lauderdale. Mr. Burton understands the ever-evolving family laws in the state of Florida and can apply them to your case so you receive the best possible outcome. Contact his office today for help.