October 25, 2020

Custody Disputes

The process of divorce or a custody battle can cause major disruptions in the quality of life for all family members, but especially the children. Issues related to child custody and timesharing are some of the most emotionally charged throughout the entire divorce process.

Whether you are facing a battle over custody resulting from separation, divorce, or allegations of abuse, we must always operate to serve the best interests of the child first while also considering parental rights.

Leonard Legal has the experience to navigate these issues with you and reach the best possible outcome for you and your children.


CHILD CUSTODY

At one time, mothers were given an advantage in child custody decisions. This is no longer the case. Both parents now stand on equal ground. At Leonard Legal, we represent clients on all sides of these custody issues.

Custody Determination

Generally, Florida courts make custody decisions based on the best interests of the child standard. A judge will consider things such as: Which parent is most likely to allow open and frequent access to the child by the non-custodial parent and other family; The child's relationship with each parent; Each parent's work schedule; The relative stability that each household can provide the child.

Children may not legally choose which parent to live with. That being said, the court will still listen to a child's preference and, if there is a legitimate reason for that preference, may find that the choice is in the best interests of that child.

Child Relocation

If you are the custodial parent and wish to move more than 50 miles away from your current residence, there are certain requirements that you must fulfill prior to any move. It is wise to speak to an experienced attorney before you start packing.

If you desire to relocate more than 50 miles away with your child, you may need to get permission from the non-custodial parent or the court. This will require you to file papers with the court and serve the non-custodial parent. The papers must contain information related to your move, the reasons for your move, and a plan to comply with any visitation or timesharing schedules in place. The non-custodial parent may object to the relocation as a whole or any portion thereof and a hearing before a judge will be held. The parties may also agree to the relocation and work out the details between themselves.

Leonard Legal understands the emotionally charged nature of these issues. We will work together to develop an approach that is aggressive and designed to protect both your rights and what's in the best interests of your children.


Timesharing and Parenting Plans

Parenting Plans

A Parenting Plan outlines how parents will share the rights and responsibilities of raising their children and includes a timesharing schedule.

Parents can work together and develop a mutually agreeable Parenting Plan and Timesharing schedule. If the parents agree, they can submit their joint proposal to the court. A judge will normally sign off on any agreed plans, but does retain the authority to change any provisions so long as it is in the best interests of the child.

If the parents cannot come to an agreement, each will submit a proposed parenting plan and timesharing to the court. The court will review each plan and can either adopt one or craft one on its own.

Any Parenting Plan must be as detailed and specific as possible. The more you explain the particulars of your family and your situation, the more effective your plan will be.

All plans must include:

How parental rights, responsibilities and child care will be shared
How decisions about education, medical and dental care, extracurricular activities, religious participation, travel and discipline will be shared
How expenses related to education, medical and dental care and child care will be divided
How timesharing will be divided, including a specific timesharing schedule
How transportation and child exchanges will occur
How parents will communicate with each other
How children will communicate with the other parent during timesharing
How changes to the plan and schedules will be handled
How conflicts related to the parenting plan and timesharing will be resolved

In addition, plans should anticipate future needs as the child grows. You should also outline how decisions will be made for other issues relevant to your child like health needs, social media usage, driving, etc.

Modifying your Plan

In Florida, the court will only modify a parenting plan if at least one of the following is true:

The child's safety is at risk;
The child would benefit significantly from the change;
The parents circumstances have changed dramatically, leaving them unable to meet their parental responsibilities and timesharing obligations.

Either parent can ask the court to modify a current parenting plan or they parents can agree on their own to modify a plan. It is vitally important to always document changes carefully.

If you are seeking to modify a parenting plan, you should seek the advise of an experienced family law attorney like Christine Leonard and Leonard Legal.

Timesharing Plans

A Timesharing Schedule is the part of your Parenting Plan that describes when the children live and spend time with each parent. The parents can agree on a timesharing arrangement in a settlement or submit proposed Parenting Plan during a trial.

Florida courts emphasize the importance of timesharing plans that prioritize the best interests of the children while supporting and fostering the parent-child relationship.

The court will consider many factors in determining timesharing schedules, but generally the schedule should:

Minimize disruption and loss experienced by the child
Ensure the children's safety and stability
Shield the children from conflict
Maximize the relationships between both the custodial parent and the non-custodial parent
Anticipate and plan for changes in circumstances

The Court must also consider your child's age and temperament, any special needs, daily schedule, school and community involvement, sibling or other family relationships, each parents schedule and lifestyle, each parents ability to meet the needs of the child, and each parents willingness to share responsibility.

A timesharing schedule has to be age appropriate and flexible enough to anticipate growth and change. As children get older, school obligations and extracurricular activities increase and become bigger portions of the child's life.

Leonard Legal has the experience to help parents reach the best timesharing schedule. If there is a dispute related to timesharing or if you are seeking to modify timesharing, give Leonard Legal a call. We take a hands-on, aggressive approach to your issues while keeping your goals at the forefront.

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