Coral Springs Child Custody Lawyer
Sunrise, Florida, Visitation Attorney
We understand that a divorce may be the most difficult issue you face in your life. At the Law Offices of Mark Abzug, P.A. in Coral Springs, Florida, our lawyers provide clients with the legal knowledge they need to make informed decisions about child custody and visitation, including:
- Shared Parental Responsibility
- Sole Custody
- Rotating Custody
Florida Statute §61.13, directs the Court to determine all matters relating to custody in accordance with the best interests of the child. It is the public policy of the State of Florida to assure that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or divorce. We encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of child rearing. For more information, visit our Child Custody Center.
Shared Parental Responsibility
Florida law prefers this type of custody arrangement over all others. Shared parenting contemplates both parents having an equal say so as it relates to making important decisions affecting the child's welfare including but not necessarily limited to medical, religious and educational decisions. Until recently, the courts selected one parent to serve as the primary residential parent. Historically, that parent enjoyed the privilege of having that child live with them and the other parent was simply referred to as the secondary parent and/or the non-primary parent.
In July 2008, the Florida Legislature made significant revisions to the parent statute. The terms of primary and secondary parent were abolished. It was believed that by labeling parents in this manner acrimony was created. Instead, now we only have "parents". Additionally, the term "visitation" was also deleted from the statute. Many parents were offended by the concept that when their children were spending time with them, their children were visiting with them. Children visit relatives such as grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Children also visit friends and neighbors. But children do not visit their parents, they live with them. It just so happens that children often live with one parent more than the other. Instead of using the term visitation, the statute now uses the term timesharing. Additionally, the statute now requires the parties to enter into a parenting plan to establish a mechanism for the manner in which decisions will be made. The statute also requires one parent to be designated as the parent who's address will be used for purposes of determining where the children will attend school. The court may continue to use the term primary residence which is intended to define the home in which the children spend more than half of their time.
Usually one parent is awarded more timesharing than the other parent, however, that is not always the case. The parties are encouraged to enter into a timesharing agreement amongst themselves and/or with the assistance of their respective attorneys. Of course, if the parties can not reach an agreement the timesharing arrangement will be determined by the court.
Both parents owe an affirmative obligation to the other parent to encourage timesharing and to foster a loving relationship between the child and the other parent. Even though one parent may enjoy more timesharing than the other, both parents have an equal voice in making important decisions.
Unfortunately, under certain circumstances, it is in the best interests of a child if only one of his/her parents has the right to make important decisions in affecting their welfare. A parent that is awarded sole custody is not required to take the other parent's opinions into consideration. Florida judges frown upon this type of custodial arrangement and are reluctant to order it, unless one of the parents has demonstrated that having the other parent participate in making decisions affecting the child is harmful to the child. A parent who has been convicted of child abuse or who has a drug problem probably is not going to be allowed to participate in making any decisions affecting the child's welfare.
Pursuant to F.S.§ 61.121, the court may order rotating custody if the court finds that rotating custody will be in the best interest of the child. Florida's appellate courts have conflicting opinions as to what factors should be considered in reaching a decision as to whether rotating custody is in the best interests of the child. The Fourth District Court of Appeals (which includes Broward and Palm Beach Counties) has identified several factors that a trial court should consider in determining whether the circumstances overcome the presumption against rotating the primary residence: (1) the age and maturity of the child, (2) whether the child is in school, (3) the proximity of the parents' residences, (4) the child's preferences, (5) the disruptive effect of the rotation on the child, (6) the reasonableness of the period of time spent with each parent, (7) the relation of the periods of custody to divisions in the child's life, such as the school year, and (8) the parent's attitudes toward one another or how their attitudes will be perceived by the child. Hosein v. Hosein, 785 So. 2d 703 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001).
The Second District Court of Appeals has held that a divorce judgment ordering rotating child custody was not in best interest of child, where parents showed animosity toward one another and were trying to use child in possessive manner. Lamelas v. Granados, 730 So.2d 387 (Fla. 2nd DCA1999). However, the Second District Court has also held that the child custody statute providing that the court may order rotating custody upon finding that it will be in the best interest of the child does not abolish presumption that rotating custody is not in the best interest of a minor child. Mandell v. Mandell, 741 So. 2d 617 (Fla. 2nd DCA1999).
To date, the Florida Supreme Court has not issued an opinion setting forth what factors should be considered to determine whether rotating custody is in the best interests of the child. For example, although the Fourth District has held that "rotating custody was not in the best interests of child where parents showed animosity toward one another", other Courts have held that when there is animosity, perhaps rotating custody would be better to minimize the amount of contacts between the parents. In short, there are not enough reported cases to guide lawyers and/or judges and new law is evolving every day.
Mediation versus Litigation
Sometimes, it is in the best interests of all parties involved to resolve child custody and visitation issues through mediation. Our law office provides mediation services for people embroiled in family law disputes. If a custody dispute must be litigated, a guardian ad litem will be appointed to interview the children and any witnesses and then provide a recommendation on behalf of the children. That advice is paramount in the court making custody decisions and attempts to keep children from having to testify in court.
Please visit our Family Law Frequently Asked Questions page.
If you have questions regarding you child custody or visitation matter, please contact us today to schedule a consultation at a discounted rate.