Fort Lauderdale Child Custody Lawyer
Delray Beach Parenting Time Attorney
Curtis R. Cowan – Board-Certified Marital and Family Lawyer
Helping Parents Work Out Child Custody Issues
Divorce is always detrimental to children. However, as parents, you have considerable power to minimize the impact. It’s not your decision to lead separate lives that is most harmful to your kids — it’s the bitter legal wrangling during divorce and inability to get along afterward that takes a toll. For your children’s sake, we encourage you to put emotions aside to strive for an out-of-court parenting agreement.
Curtis R. Cowan, P.A. is a Fort Lauderdale divorce and custody attorney representing men and women of Broward County and South Palm Beach and is a Florida Bar Board Certified marital and family lawyer, with over 20 years of legal experience. Curtis R. Cowan can help you settle your child custody and parenting plan issues. Contact or call our law office today at (954) 953-2575.
Parenting Plans and Timesharing
Today Florida courts typically award what’s called shared parental responsibility involving:
- A court-approved parenting plan that describes in detail how parents decide such issues as education, health care, and other legal considerations regarding the daily care and upbringing of their children.
- A timesharing schedule (visitation) where each parent is granted reasonable and frequent time, that sets the number of overnights or weekends the child will spend with each parent, as well as schedules for pickup and drop-off, vacations, holidays, and summers, school activities, and so on.
NOTE: In determining the parenting plan, the courts give great weight to which of you is more likely to foster in the child a loving, close relationship with the other parent. Sabotaging the child’s bond with the other parent or bad-mouthing the other parent in court, are the surest ways to compromise your position.
Determining the Best Interests of the Child
The court is concerned with the best interests of the child — not necessarily your interests. Child development level plays a role and no one size fits all families. You may desire a 50-50 timesharing split, but this is not always healthy for young children or a child who needs more certainty and structure. On the other hand, an easygoing child or teen can be more adaptable to shifting frequently between two homes.
Often the court will appoint a social investigator to evaluate the home situations of each parent and/or a guardian ad litem who is the “next friend” of the child. Judges usually follow their recommendations based on 20 or so factors from your willingness to honor timesharing or make changes, to the child’s current stable environment, your familiarity with it, and your desire to work together to maintain stability.
The court must approve a parenting plan — if not one created by your mutual agreement then one imposed by the judge. Child support is determined in part by the each parent’s level of timesharing. Once again, control over the outcome occurs when you and the other parent work together.
Can I Get Sole Custody?
It is important to realize that shared parental responsibility means both parents share equal responsibility and decision-making and that no one has any greater rights or powers regarding the children. However, many parents mistakenly believe that they should be awarded sole residential and decision-making responsibility because they are a “better” parent.
Under most circumstances, don’t waste your time and money seeking sole parental responsibility. Courts will not cut the other parent out of the picture without demonstrated evidence that the mother or father is unfit. “Poor parenting” is not the criteria; it is an actual danger to the child (physical or sexual abuse, emotional abuse or neglect, criminal activity, substance abuse).
The Role of Mediation
Florida courts require all contested child custody cases be mediated. Although non-binding, most mediations result in a settlement (parenting plan). We can prepare clients for mediation with a neutral third party. Alternatively, Curtis Cowan is a State-certified mediator who can serve that role. If these talks are not productive, we can help you stand your ground in litigation.
Let Us Help You Resolve the Disputes
When parents cannot communicate and confer with each other, the aftermath of divorce can be devastating to children. Rather than viewing child custody as a “win/lose” proposition, I help clients understand what will foster cooperation and what will make divorce easiest for your kids.
Contact our Ft. Lauderdale office to arrange a consultation. You can reach us at (954) 953-2575.