Getting divorced can be like getting caught in a whirlwind. It involves many changes for everyone involved. Some of the most important questions in a divorce involve the children: Who gets to raise them? Who gets to decide where they go to school? If, and where, they go to church? Where will everyone live? This is what child custody is all about in a divorce. The parents must decide together what to do. If they cannot, a judge will step in and order the terms of child custody as determined to be in the best interests of the children.
Even if you believe that you and your ex-spouse will be able to agree about the terms of the shared custody, it is helpful to get an understanding of what the law is, get a good attorney to help you navigate the process, and understand the way the judge will approach your case.
The attorneys at My.Attorney has helped numerous clients through the divorce process and custody arrangements. Our firm is dedicated to getting you what you want in your divorce. Since, when it comes to your children, the stakes couldn’t be higher, it is important to get a trusted, firm and knowledgeable attorney to guide your divorce and child custody case.
“Custody” No Longer in Child Custody Cases
The term “custody” has been used for so long in determining parenting schedules and parenting decisions for the children involved in a divorce that it is now used almost everywhere. But the courts in Florida are trying to change this and the legislature in Florida has revamped the laws to remove the term “custody” from the divorce context. The new term is “parental responsibility.” While you may still use the terms interchangeably, the judge in your case will likely use parental responsibility to discuss the arrangements that will govern your visitation schedule and the decisions surrounding how to raise your children. For this reason, you should get used to the new terms that are going to be used in your case.
Shared Parental Responsibility
There are basically two ways that parental responsibility can be divided. The most common is “shared parental responsibility.” This means that the divorcing parents will make the decisions about where their children go to school, which doctor they go to and what treatment they receive, and other similar decisions together. You will be expected to put the interests of your children first and work together to make these important decisions for them.
Shared parental responsibility is the type preferred by the courts. This means it is typically the default type of custody. Unless there are compelling reasons to prevent one parent from participating in these decisions, the court will likely order that you and your ex share parental responsibility.
However, this is not guaranteed. The judge will look to see if that arrangement is appropriate in your divorce. Some factors he/she will look at are:
- Each parent’s physical and mental health and limitations
- Children’s wishes, especially as they get older
- Relationships with extended family
- Current school and living arrangements
- Whether either parent is violent/abusive
- Possible problems with drugs or alcohol
Basically, the goal is to make sure the children are in a safe and stable environment and that their parents are capable and responsible. Please be aware that the court will usually be inclined to give both parties shared parental responsibility. Often, one or another parent thinks the other parent is a bad parent or a bad person. You judge is not going to make a determination of whether someone is good or bad. He/she will focus on objective facts that demonstrate whether that person can keep the children safe and stable. This is not a forum for personal attacks.
Sole Parental Responsibility
In some instances, the court may grant “sole parental responsibility.” This means that the parent awarded sole responsibility will make all decisions regarding the parenting of the child/children. The other parent will have no say in the decisions. If you are the excluded parent, this means that you will not be able to have any control over any medical treatments/procedures your child may be given, which school they go to or where they worship (if anywhere). Obviously, having you excluded from such decisions is something we will work hard to avoid.
Protecting Your Parenting Rights
Simply put, you do not want to be in a situation in which your ex has sole parental responsibility. The good news is that the courts are predisposed to granting shared parental responsibility. There are, however, still things you can do to help your case.
First, treat your former spouse with respect. Even in the heat of the moment, you need to keep a level head and put the kids’ needs ahead of your feelings. A text message, voicemail, email or statement made in the heat of the moment could be used against you later in court. While not the only factor, showing the court that you are emotionally in control will go a long way to helping your case.
Second, you need a knowledgeable and thoughtful attorney to be by your side. No one is able to handle a divorce alone. You are no different. Now is not the time to try to make life-altering decisions for yourself and your children. You need a solid advisor to help you. Someone who knows what the law is, when to push hard for your rights, and when to compromise to help you get what you want.
Contact Our Florida Child Custody Attorney Today
The attorneys at My.Attorney have decades of experience in handling divorce and child custody cases. We have seen it all and been there to support our clients through the challenges of all sorts of unexpected complications. Don’t leave your divorce and child custody up to chance. Get a trusted advisor to fight for you and your children. Call My.Attorney today for a free consultation.