Experienced Guidance For Custody, Co-Parenting And Your Parental Rights
Divorcing parents may go their separate ways, but they are still tethered by the children of their marriage. Custody decisions may be the most important choices you make during your divorce — and the most complex and emotional. It is essential to have both wise counsel and strong representation.
At the South Florida law firm of Jodie Bassichis, P.A, you benefit from my 30-plus years of experience resolving the issues of child custody and parenting arrangements. Through negotiation, mediation or litigation, I will fiercely protect your parental rights while guiding you to practical and healthy solutions.
I represent moms and dads but I make no bones about being a strong supporter of father’s rights in custody arrangements, especially unmarried fathers. I have campaigned for the rights that fathers have in Florida. The bottom line is that I am a children’s advocate — they need and deserve both parents in their lives.
Time-Sharing VS. Custody: Florida Law On Parenting Arrangements
In the past, couples who divorced would sit down and decide which parent the child would live with, and the other parent would get limited “visitation.” As the culture changed, Florida’s laws have evolved. The courts now presume that both parents will be actively involved in raising the child. Instead of “physical custody” to one parent the statute refers to time-sharing. Instead of “legal custody” the court may refer to parental responsibilities. What was formerly known as “sole custody” is reserved for rare situations where one parent poses a true threat the child’s safety or well-being.
Even when the children live predominantly with one parent, the courts call this arrangement time-sharing because they favor parenting plan arrangements that give both parents significant time with their children.
Now it is more common for parents to divide the time with their children equally or nearly equally between two households. Some parents keep the marital home as the full-time “nest” for the children, taking turns living there. Some parents opt for the traditional custody-and-visitation model. What works for each family in a shared custody arrangement will depend on many factors: how far apart you live from your ex, how well you get along, your work schedules and what best suits your children’s needs.
This refers to a parent’s right to make decisions about their children’s schooling, extracurricular activities, medical care and religion. As a general rule, the courts favor shared parental responsibility (aka joint decision-making). Of course, you may not see eye to eye on where the kids go to school, what activities they partake in, and what health care treatments or religious instruction they receive. This is where a carefully crafted parenting plan comes in.
The Parenting Plan: Tying It All Together
A parenting plan is mandatory in Florida. Thecourts will require you and your ex to draft a plan which spells out:
- A schedule of when the child will reside or visit each parent and arrangements for exchanges
- How the parties divide specific holidays, vacations and summer break
- Clear stipulation if one parent is requesting to have ultimate decision-making authority regarding education, activities, religion and medical decisions
- An outline of responsibilities of both parents regarding upbringing and care for the children
- Methods of communication and how children will be transported
- A forum or protocol for resolving parenting disputes that arise
A quality parenting plan will be detailed enough to prevent conflict due to ambiguity, but flexible enough to accommodate day-to-day realities and the changing needs of a growing child or family.
What If We Can’t Come To Agreement?
It’s always preferable to reach an out-of-court resolution if at all possible. Bringing a child custody matter to a judge can be dicey because the judge might make a decision that neither parent wants but that both must abide by. You may need the help of a custody lawyer or family law mediator to help you find common ground and resolve the remaining disputes.
If the other parent is angling to cut you out of the picture or undermine your bond with your child — or is simply unwilling to engage in productive co-parenting negotiations — we may have to go to court. I am a skilled litigator who will fight for your parental rights. I never take a scorched-earth approach where kids are involved, but I will help you stand your ground and demand fair treatment under the law.
Mediation can bridge the divide
I was formerly certified as a mediator by the Florida Supreme Court and I do conduct private mediations where I serve as the neutral mediator. But most often, I am serving as the attorney for one spouse when a couple enters mediation in the context of contested divorce and custody proceedings. The court will often make mediation mandatory, and I believe in making the most of the opportunity. Even if mediation does not yield a parenting agreement, it clarifies and narrows the disputes for subsequent litigation.
How Is Contested Custody Determined?
When one or both parents choose to litigate, the court will determine time-sharing based on the best interests of the child. Those factors include:
- The willingness of each parent to honor the time-sharing schedule and ensure that the child enjoys a continued meaningful relationship with the other parent
- The capacity of each parent in terms of health, resources and time
- The need for the child to enjoy a stable environment
- Geographic considerations (distance between households)
- The child’s preference to live with one or the other parent
- Evidence of abuse or domestic violence
- The customary caretaking tasks each parent performed to date
In the case of abuse or violence, a judge might order supervised time-sharing or award full custody to the other parent. The courts tend to favor arrangements that provide the most consistency and least disruption to the child’s life, over the preference or convenience of the parents.
Let’s Discuss Your Concerns About Time-Sharing
Every family is unique and requires customized solutions. I can explain what the law says and offer my prediction as to what a judge is likely to do in different scenarios. I can help you problem-solve your disputes or vigorously assert your parental rights.