One of the things that divorcing parents worry about the most is the impact their break up will have on their children. For kids, splitting one household into two doesn’t just mean a new home, new school, or new lifestyle, it also means splitting their time between two parents.
As a parent, you want to do anything in your power to protect your kids during this tumultuous time. And one of the best ways you can do that is by being prepared yourself.
In this article, we’ll talk about everything you need to know about visitation rights in Florida so you and your kids can be well-equipped for the road ahead.
YOU NEED A TIME-SHARING PLAN
Florida law says that every parent is entitled to “frequent and continuing contact” with their children. Therefore, all Florida Parenting Plans must include a detailed time-sharing schedule for the parents and the minor children.
A visitation or time-sharing plan is a timetable that specifies the time—including overnights and holidays—that a minor child will spend with each parent. Once both parents agree to a visitation schedule, a court judge will review and approve it.
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Many people believe that each parent is required to an equal amount of time. Some think that the mother will “always” be given more custody and visitation rights as the father. Both of these beliefs are untrue!
The Law understands that every family is unique and there is no formula that works for everyone. Instead, the court judge is responsible for arriving at a visitation schedule that is in the best interest of the child—not the parents. If your court judge believes that your time-sharing schedule is not in the best interest of your child, they do not have to approve it, even if both parents agreed.
FLORIDA CHILD VISITATION GUIDELINES
Because Florida Law leaves much of these decisions to the judge’s discretion, there are a number of factors judges will consider when awarding custody and visitation, including but not limited to:
- Each parents’ relationship with the child(ren);
- How likely each parent is to honor the time-sharing schedule and be flexible with changes;
- The expected division of parental responsibilities;
- Travel time and geographical limitations;
- Moral, mental, and physical health of the parents;
- The preference of the child(ren);
- Developmental and special needs of the child(ren);
- Parents’ abilities to provide a consistent routine;
- Safety and security of the child(ren).
If there is any evidence of domestic violence or child abuse, a court may presume that shared custody and visitation would be harmful to the child. Even if your spouse is incarcerated, our court judges must make some provision for visitation.
Florida Law does allow a court judge to deny overnight visitation if a parent lives in a recovery residence, but even then, this may be reconsidered if the judge believes it to be in the best interest of the child.
STANDARD VISITATION SCHEDULES
Because every family is unique, a “standard” visitation schedule does not exist.
Now, this does not mean that the particular court judge assigned to your case does not have a standard visitation schedule that he or she prefers to use in most cases. Every court judge is different, so it is imperative that you know who your court judge is and how s/he typically handles visitation schedules.
You might hear or read references to visitation schedules such as:
These are all shorthand ways to describe certain types of visitation schedules. For example, a 2-2-3 schedule is a 50/50 schedule where your child spends two days with one parent, two days with the other parent and three days with the first parent. Then, it switches for the following week.
A 2-2-5-5 visitation schedule is where your child spends two days with each parent and then five days with each parent.
There are many other effective visitation schedules that may work best for your children.
OVERNIGHT VISITATION REQUIREMENTS
If you aren’t accustomed to spending nights apart from your child, it can be very hard to make that transition.
Some mothers of infants believe that the father should not have overnight visitation with their child because men are not equipped or skilled enough to care for an infant. Moreover, some mothers also believe that fathers should not have overnight visitation with their daughters who are under a certain age.
However, Florida law does not support either of these positions and states that a court may not deny a parent overnight contact and access to or visitation with a child solely because of the age or sex of the child.
Some parents also believe that the other parent should not have overnights with their child because he or she does not have a “stable residence” with a separate sleeping area for the child. Florida law states that denying a parent overnight visitation until he or she secures a stable residence with a separate sleeping are for the child is too vague and unnecessarily restrictive.
If you have specific reasons to be concerned about your child’s health or safety, this is something to discuss with with a visitation attorney.
HOW OLD DOES A CHILD HAVE TO BE FOR OVERNIGHT VISITATION?
Florida Law states that parents may not be denied overnight contact or visitation with a child solely based on the child’s age or sex.
While many court judges may prefer to keep very young infants with their mothers, others may make an effort to allow both parents equal overnight visitation. Ultimately, the judge will consider all of the factors at play when making their determination (not how many candles are on the child’s birthday cake).
THIRD PARTY RIGHTS
Some grandparents want custody and visitation in cases where a child is living with them. However, this is unconstitutional and violates a natural parent’s fundamental right to raise his or her child.
With a couple of rare exceptions that involved extraordinary circumstances, there are no visitation rights to anyone other than a parent.
PICK UP AND DROP OFF (EXCHANGE LOCATIONS)
Some parents are incapable or unable to be civil when exchanging minor children with the other parent. To minimize the ongoing parental conflict, some visitation exchanges with minor children happen in public places, such as fast-food restaurants or grocery stores.
Your circumstance may be such that exchanges at your respective residences will work perfectly well.
If the parents are not in agreement regarding one parent relocating his or her residence more than 50 miles from their current residence, the parent wishing to relocate must file a Petition for Relocation. The Petition must contain certain, specific elements, including a proposal for the revised post-relocation visitation schedule.
CONTACT AN ORLANDO VISITATION LAWYER TODAY
Divorce is the one of the most stressful events someone will ever experience. In addition to the emotional impact, you also have to navigate the Florida child visitation guidelines.
Having a lawyer on your side to help you identify your rights and responsibilities is essential. Remember that in most cases, both parents have visitation rights in Florida and both of you are entitled to spend quality time with your children.
Divorce and divorce-related situations is all we do here at Leap Frog Divorce. We’re ready to help you today, and we have financing options.