We Know How Important Your Children Are

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Tampa Child Custody and Parenting Plan Attorney

When Mr. Davis was divorced several years ago, his two young children were his primary importance.  As such, Mr. Davis understands exactly how important your children are to you.  Parenting Plans (formerly known as child custody) are critically important in all cases involving minor children.  Furthermore, making the agonizing decisions regarding how your children will share time with each parent is incredibly stressful.  Rest assured that when you are represented by our firm, the best interests of your child or children is always one of our primary concerns.

From Child Custody to Parenting Plans

In Florida, the laws relating to “child custody” changed substantially in 2008.  Specifically, the legislature removed the terms custody, visitation, primary residential parent, and secondary residential parent from the statute.  Parents no longer have titles other than “Mom” and “Dad” and they now share “parenting time” with their child or children.  Although some these changes have improved the way people co-parent with one another, it is our goal to make the transition as smooth as possible for you and your child or children.

Parenting Plan Considerations

In each case involving minor children, the Court enters a Parenting Plan and time sharing schedule.  The Parenting Plan addresses many different topics regarding your child or children which includes, but is not limited to:

  • How you and the other parent will make important decisions regarding your child or children such as education, health care, religion, and extracurricular activities? This is referred to as parental responsibility.
  • When your child or children will spend time with each parent.
  • How will you and the other parent share holidays, birthdays, and summer break?
  • Which parent’s address will be designated for school boundary and legal purposes?
  • How will you and the other parent address international travel?

Parental Responsibility

Section 61.13, Florida Statutes states that the court shall order that parents share the parental responsibility for the child or children unless the court finds that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to the child or children.  Shared parental responsibility is essentially continuing to communicate and work together to make decisions that are in the best interests of your child or children.  In reality, well over 95% of all matters involving minor children are appropriate for shared parental responsibility.

However, if the court determines that shared parental responsibility would be detrimental to your child or children, the court may order sole parental responsibility (sole decision-making authority) and make arrangements for time-sharing as specified in the Parenting Plan, taking into considerations necessary to protect the child or other parent from harm.  The Court may also order sole parental responsibility without time-sharing with the other parent if it is in the best interests of the child.

Additionally, in ordering shared parental responsibility the court may consider the expressed desires of the parents and may grant to one parent ultimate decision-making responsibility (what we call the tie-breaking vote) over specific aspects of the child’s welfare or may divide those responsibilities between the parents based on the best interests of the child or children.  Areas of responsibility may include education, health care, and any other responsibilities that the court finds are unique to a particular family.

Statutory Factors

Parenting plans are also governed by Section 61.13, Florida Statutes.  This statute requires the Court to determine what is in the best interests of the minor child or children.   Absent an agreement by the parents, the Court must make this determination by analyzing the unique facts and circumstances of each family in light of the factors listed in the statute which are as follows:

  1. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
  2. The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
  3. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
  4. The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
  5. The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child.
  6. The moral fitness of the parents.
  7. The mental and physical health of the parents.
  8. The home, school, and community record of the child.
  9. The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
  10. The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.
  11. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
  12. The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
  13. Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought. If the court accepts evidence of prior or pending actions regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, the court must specifically acknowledge in writing that such evidence was considered when evaluating the best interests of the child.
  14. Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
  15. The particular parenting tasks customarily performed by each parent and the division of parental responsibilities before the institution of litigation and during the pending litigation, including the extent to which parenting responsibilities were undertaken by third parties.
  16. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to participate and be involved in the child’s school and extracurricular activities.
  17. The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse.
  18. The capacity and disposition of each parent to protect the child from the ongoing litigation as demonstrated by not discussing the litigation with the child, not sharing documents or electronic media related to the litigation with the child, and refraining from disparaging comments about the other parent to the child.
  19. The developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.
  20. Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.

There are many more facets of a child’s life that the court will look at to determine custody if your case ends up going to trial.  If it is possible to work out an agreement in settlement, we will do everything we can to minimize your legal costs by attempting to negotiate with the other side.  If that is not possible, remember that we are trial lawyers and we will not hesitate to fight for you and your children.

Contact Us Today

Our team based in Tampa practices divorce and family law throughout Florida, but primarily represents clients in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, and Polk counties.  Wherever you need an expert attorney who is Board Certified in Marital and Family Law, we stand ready to help .  We thank you for taking the time to review our website. If you have questions, or would like to schedule a consultation at our Tampa office, please contact us at (813) 251-6222.

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