Pursuing a Workable Parenting Plan

Children deserve the care and attention of both parents. At Law Offices of James C. Campbell, P.A., in Shalimar, Florida, we help parents put children first by arguing for child custody and visitation (now referred to as time sharing) outcomes that are best for our clients and their children.

Contact us to discuss how our attorneys can help you pursue a favorable parenting plan outcome.

Addressing the Best Interests of the Child

In Florida, as in many other states, traditional terms like "child custody," "child visitation" and "primary residential parent" are being done away with. Instead, parents involved in a divorce or paternity action are required to adopt "time sharing" and a "parenting plan" that specifies when a child will be under the supervision of each parent. Under this plan, the specifics of the child's day-to-day life and the custodial arrangement, including time sharing between the parents, is detailed.

However, the basic legal standard remains the same: the best interests of the child. Generally, if one parent has been primarily responsible for caring for the child in the past, it is considered in the child's interest to maintain that primary care relationship. An exception would be if a parent is unfit due to drug use, incarceration or another factor. To a great extent the court will look to the "blueprint" that the parties used during the marriage to provide care for the children. These include feeding, bathing, meeting medical needs and conferencing with teachers, etc. A contested time sharing (custody) case can involve an examination of all aspects of a person's private life. This is one of the most difficult issues found in a divorce and can cause the cost to be very high. Florida Statutes Section 61.13 deals with time sharing issues.
The amount of time sharing can impact the amount of child support. See FS 61.30(11)(b).
A 50-50 time sharing arrangement is becoming more popular but it requires the parties to have ideal circumstances that do not affect the best interests of the child.

In child custody matters and all legal issues on which we work with you, we will not just tell you what you want to hear we will tell you what you need to hear. We know that it is important for your lawyer to explain the range of likely outcomes in your case so you can work for the best possible results.

The preference of a child is only one of over 20 factors that a court must consider when making a time sharing (custody) determination in an initial or subsequent modification action. As a child ages, more consideration is given to the child's preference. This usually becomes more relevant when the child attains the age of 12-13, depending on the child's maturity level. Beware of what a child states about his or her preference! A child will often tell a parent what the child feels the parent wants to hear. In many cases the child is telling both parents the same thing because they do not want to hurt either parent. It is best if the child is left completely out of this process.

Florida Statute Section 61.13(3) itemizes the factors that the court must consider in establishing a time sharing (custody) plan.

*Social Media has become a "gold mine" for relevant evidence in divorce cases. Do not put anything on your Facebook account if it makes you look bad!! If you do, the judge will hear about it at trial.*

Relocation Issues

Once a parenting plan has been adopted, the residence of each parent is a key aspect of the plan. That means that if you are party to a parenting plan and want to relocate, there are specific statutory requirements (Florida Statutes Section 61.13001) before a parent can leave the state with or without a child, whether during the pendency of litigation or afterward. We are devoted to achieving the best outcomes for children by giving responsible, quality representation to parents in child custody and visitation matters. Failure to adhere to these statutory requirements could affect one's ability to relocate with the child. Contact us to learn more about Florida parenting plans.

Note: the Relocation Statutue does not apply if an action has not been filed. Adherence to this statute is required after filing and after a Final Judgment is entered.

Accounting for Changed Circumstances

The custody arrangement that is in the best interest of a child can change over time. And when circumstances change, it is possible to seek modification of a parenting plan. If you are interested in modifying child custody, we will give you an honest assessment of the likely outcome. Even if both parents can agree on a modification of the plan, it is a good idea to have that agreement approved by the court so it can become enforceable.

Deployment Issues and Effect on Time Sharing

If a parent is activated, deployed, or temporarily assigned to military service in excess of 90 days, Florida Statutes Section 61.13002 gives that parent expanded rights as it relates to time sharing with the children. The deployed parent can designate another relative to exercise time sharing in the deployed parent's place. Additionally, a parent returning from deployment may be entitled to significant "makeup" time sharing. This scenario is entitled to an expedited hearing. This section does not apply to permanent change of station moves by military personnel.

Attorney Fees

Courts can award a party, on a reimbursement basis, his or her reasonably incurred attorney fees that would be paid by the other party. This is the last issue to be determined after child support, alimony, asset and debt distribution are all addressed. If one party is still in a significantly better position than the other, then the impecunious spouse may be entitled to an award of fees and costs, or at least a portion of them, from the other spouse.