Divorce & Children’s Issues During the Holiday Season

During the holiday season, many children from divorced families are splitting time between their parent’s homes. Children’s issues in family law vary from state to state, with Florida retiring terms like “custody” and “visitation” in favor of establishing overall “shared parenting plans” and “timesharing.” Lawrence Datz, a family law attorney and partner at Datz & Datz, P.A., explores this issue with WJXT viewers and explains how some families are navigating this holiday season.

Dealing with Divorce During the Holiday Season:

  • Someone once observed that couples generally fight about four things: money, intimacy, childrearing and household chores. However, when parents end a relationship, disagreements over children can be the most intense.
  • The holiday season is typically a time divorced parents each want to share with their children as well as a time emotions can run high. That’s why a shared parenting plan is one of the top things established in divorce cases.
  • For decades, children’s issues were addressed in terms of “custody” and “visitation,” but these terms were retired in favor of an overall “shared parenting plan.” The parenting plan allocates decision-making, timesharing and other responsibilities between parents based on the best interests of the child.

Defining Parental Responsibility:

  • Parental responsibility refers to each parent’s right to make decisions for their child’s welfare. The vast majority of parents have “shared parental responsibility,” which requires them to consult with each other about all significant decisions affecting their children.
  • Exceptions are rare, but a court may grant “ultimate decision-making authority” to one parent on a specific issue, like health care or education. The parents still have to consult with each other, but the ultimate decision-maker gets the proverbial “last word.”

Understanding Time Sharing:

  • “Child custody” and “visitation” have given way to “timesharing,” or the schedule by which a child spends time in each parent’s household. One of the many reasons for the change in terminology was to reduce conflict so a parent would not pursue custody as a figurative trophy.
  • Once a timesharing schedule is determined, it can be modified only if both parents agree or if one parent can satisfy an “extraordinary burden of proof” related to changed circumstances. The idea is to keep parents from unnecessarily disrupting their children’s lives with successive court proceedings.
  • In the past, mothers were most often given custody of the larger portion of time that their child stayed with them. However, nowadays, there are no presumptions for a particular timesharing schedule. Instead, Florida law lists several factors to consider what is in the best interests of the child.

For more information on parental responsibility and timesharing when it comes to divorce, visit datzlaw.net or call 904-296-7440.