Child custody is a difficult subject for many parents. Florida no longer uses the term “custody,” which has a negative connotation. Florida takes a two-prong approach to parenting. First is parental responsibility, which consist of decision making and sharing information. The second is time-sharing, the actual time the child will spend with each parent. The uncertainty of what the Court will award in a ”custody battle” is a scary thought, especially when the parents do not get along. It is important to be prepared when discussing how the child’s time will be divided. If you are not familiar with these types of situations, here’s some helpful information.
What to Expect During a “Custody Battle”
Every family is unique. Some parents might have already discussed time-sharing, although often nothing has been decided. Most “child custody” hearings occur during a divorce, which only heightens the tension between the parents and can skew their perception of what is best for the child. If you are embarking down this long and challenging road, try to keep all expectations to a minimum and focus on the needs of the child.
If you and the other parent are not getting along, you should always be prepared for them to take their frustrations out in the courtroom. Since each parent is equal in the eyes of the Court, the Court looks at the statutory “best interest” factors in determining time-sharing. Typically, both parents will ask to be named the majority time-sharing parent (the parent with the most time with the child). Always be prepared with evidence to argue your case and secure your parental rights. If you are concerned, plan to bring witnesses to testify on your behalf like teachers, doctors, family and friends.
How Mediation Can Help
Using a Supreme Court Certified Mediator can be a great tool if you and the other parent are committed to finding the best solution for your child. In mediation, both parents discuss their situations openly with each other. Most of the time all involved believe that the child’s needs come first, and any lingering drama is put aside. Parents then determine what compromise works best for the family. Post-divorce living arrangements can be discussed to ensure the child has a safe and secure home, as one or both parents may be required to find a new residence or stay with friends or family in the short term. If this matter was decided upon in court, it would be open to input from the judge. Mediation allows every parent to decide the details of the joint agreement and make changes at any time.
Keys to Time Sharing
Giving up any time spent with a child is hard. After a divorce, this is likely the first time you have had to be separated from your child. It is important to respect the time-sharing process and understand that the other parent wants to see the child just as much as you do. Mediation can help determine a time-sharing schedule that benefits all involved. There is almost nothing worse than being handed down a ruling from a judge, who is a stranger, that unfairly favors one person over another. If you are looking for a way to take time-sharing schedules into your own hands, mediation is highly recommended.
If you are just beginning a “custody battle” or divorce proceedings, mediation should be considered. It places control solely in your hands and allows you to decide what is best for your child, not the court.