visitation explained

 

Florida Child Custody and Visitation Information

 

Child custody and visitation matters are often the most difficult for the family law attorney. Each party is at the height of thier sensitivity regarding their parental relationship with their children.

 

The information below is designed to enhance your general knowledge of child custody and visitation issues. To discuss your individual situation with an experienced lawyer, contact my office for a free consultation.

 

Child Custody and Visitation - An Overview

 

Parents who are divorcing have much to consider. Uppermost in their minds is often child custody. Child custody and visitation/parenting time can come in many forms. Joint custody and sole custody; legal custody and physical custody; custody evaluations and modifications: all are terms with which a divorcing parent will become familiar. Knowledgeable advice and skilled representation from an experienced family law attorney can assist you in your pursuit of a fair custody arrangement.

 

Creating Parenting Plans that Work

 

A parenting plan is an agreement between parents who are either divorced/divorcing or never married, and it outlines the custody of their children. It takes into account arrangements such as who has the children on which days; who makes major decisions about the children's education, health, etc.; and what to do if any party's situation significantly changes. Parents who agree on a parenting plan rather than let the court decide are more likely to comply with custody arrangements.

 

Sitting down with the spouse you are divorcing to work out a parenting plan may seem like the last thing you want to do, but this approach holds many advantages. You are the people who know your children best: their needs, their schedules and their preferences. By working together to create a parenting plan that satisfies the needs of your new family structure, you will avoid the possibility of a court's less nuanced solution. A court can only know what you tell it about your family's particularities, but you and your spouse are already exceptionally familiar with the territory. A family law attorney can help you create a plan that is right for you and your family.

 

Custody and Visitation Dos and Don'ts

 

One thing divorce does not change is your being a parent. Whether you develop a traditional visitation schedule or a flexible co-parenting plan, whether the arrangement is temporary or permanent, you can help make the time you spend with your children happy and productive. When questions regarding custody and visitation arise, an experienced family law attorney is the ideal source for competent counsel.

 

Custody Evaluations: What You Should Know

 

If you and your former spouse have been unable to reach an agreement regarding child custody, the family court judge deciding your case may order a custody evaluation. A custody evaluation is a process in which a mental health professional, usually a psychologist, evaluates you, your children and your spouse in order to make a custody and visitation recommendation to the court. Courts tend to give considerable weight to the recommendations of the evaluator. A family law attorney can explain custody evaluations and answer your child custody questions.

 

Custody Evaluation Basics

 

Depending on where you live, custody evaluations can cost up to several thousand dollars, but some courts have lower-cost alternatives. Though ordered by the court, the divorcing couple usually pays for the evaluation.

The court may assign an evaluator to you or may allow you to choose from a list of evaluators who meet specific standards of education and experience. Regardless of who chooses the evaluator and who pays for the evaluation, the evaluator should be neutral and should not have a patient-therapist relationship with anyone in the family either before or after the evaluation. Nothing you tell the evaluator is confidential or subject to doctor-patient privilege.

 

Custody Evaluation Process

 

The evaluator is working to make a determination of the best interests of the child. So that the evaluator may fully understand the family dynamics, the typical custody evaluation consists of:

  • Two or three interviews with each parent
  • Two or three interviews with each child
  • Observation of parental interaction with each child in the office and potentially at home
  • Psychological testing as necessary
  • Review of important court papers
  • Interviews with people like teachers, pediatricians and day care providers as necessary

Once the evaluation process is complete, the evaluator will issue a report with recommendations regarding custody and visitation. Most evaluators will specifically address concerns raised by each parent in making recommendations. The final custody and visitation recommendation is based on factors such as:

  • The quality of each parent's relationship to each child
  • The relationship between the parents and their ability or willingness to support their children's ongoing relationships with the other parent
  • The parenting skills and capacity of each parent
  • Each parent's psychological health and any drug or alcohol abuse
  • The children's psychological health
  • Any evidence of abuse or violence

Preparing for the Custody Evaluation

 

Custody evaluators expect you to be nervous. They understand the stress that the evaluation process can cause. Following some basic guidelines will decrease your stress and help the evaluator get a true understanding of you and your parenting style.

  • Treat the evaluation like you would a job interview. Be on time and dress neatly. Don't become defensive. Be honest and sincere, but remember that what you say to the evaluator will not be kept confidential.
  • Go in organized — get your documents together. Make a list of your concerns so you can be confident that they have been communicated.
  • Show the priority the children have in your life. Communicate your knowledge of their interests, needs and desires and use that knowledge as a basis for your views on custody.
  • Pay attention to the questions and answer them directly and to the point. Ask for an explanation if you don't understand the question.
  • Avoid negative comments about the other parent and his or her family. Limit answers to questions about your spouse to specific facts.
  • If you want to give the evaluator names of teachers or others you would like the evaluator to contact, let the evaluator know that you plan to do so in advance.
  • Help your children understand what is going on, but do not coach them on the answers to give.
  • Respond promptly and calmly to evaluator requests, including requests for additional testing, documentation and/or payment.
  • Do not make repeated calls to the evaluator or call to see when the report will be finished.

Custody Evaluation Report

 

The custody evaluator may meet with you to discuss the report. Most reports contain:

  • A recommendation regarding custody and visitation
  • A parenting plan to help you carry out the recommended schedule and a process for resolving future problems
  • Suggestions for therapy or parenting classes as needed
  • Guidelines for dealing with special problems like abuse, violence or parental alienation
  • Schedules or suggestions for reevaluation as needed

Contact a family law attorney to discuss your custody evaluation concerns.

 

Trial: Every state has statutes and procedures for the legal resolution of disputed child custody. While specific standards differ from state to state, most courts decide contested custody cases based upon a determination of what arrangement is in the best interests of the child. Considerations that go into a best interest determination may include review of the child's age and attachment to the parent who has been the primary caretaker; parental physical and mental health; any history of domestic violence; and the child's wishes, depending upon the age of the child and the motivation for the preference.

 

Modifications

 

Once custody has been established through agreement or court order, parents may seek court involvement to modify the established arrangement. To support a modification request, the parent seeking the modification must show a substantial change in circumstances. If the modification request is within two years of the original custody determination, some states will only consider it if the child is endangered by the custody arrangement. Additionally, states that follow the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act will only consider requests for modification if they occur in the state in which a child has an established residence, in order to prevent forum shopping and custody-motivated child removals.

 

Conclusion

 

The resolution of child custody and visitation disputes requires divorcing parents to act rationally in their child's best interests at a time when they are facing the overwhelming stress of divorce. Early involvement by a family law attorney with knowledge and experience in child custody law can help.

 

If you are in need of an attorney with family visitation experience, contact www.marybethcorn.com for a free consulation today.

 

The material on this page represents general legal advice. Since the law is continually changing, some of the provisions contained here may be out of date. It is always best to consult a family law attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities regarding your particular case.