From a Divorce Attorney: What is Co-parenting?
Co-parenting is when two parents work together cooperatively for the child’s best interests. The following language comes from Florida Statue 61.21.: “A large number of children experience the separation or divorce of their parents each year. Parental conflict related to divorce is a societal concern because children suffer potential short-term and long-term detrimental economic, emotional, and educational effects during this difficult period of family transition. This is particularly true when parents engage in lengthy legal conflict.”
The law presumes that parents will have “shared parental responsibility” for their minor children. As a result, co-parenting is normally expected by judges as parents go about making significant decisions for their children. This will be the case unless you or your spouse are unfit to exercise shared parenting responsibility, due to drug use, criminal activity or some other condition that is hazardous to children. In other words, and as a general rule, sole custody is granted to one parent only in cases of abuse, abandonment or neglect. Per Florida Statute 61.13, one of the first considerations for the court when determining parental rights and responsibilities is which parent is going to encourage the best relationship with the other parent. Therefore, to maximize your own rights to your children, you need to work with the other parent for your child’s best interests.
It can also be a good idea to communicate with the other parenting in writing. Texts and emails can be admitted in court cases, but he-said/she-said scenarios are not persuasive. Read on for more tips on co-parenting, and get in touch with an experienced Florida divorce attorney to learn more.
Avoiding Parental Micromanagement
Different people parent their children in different ways. Courts will not help you micromanage parenting decisions, and so as parents, you will need to respect each other’s differences as it relates to minor parenting decisions. Major decisions are where a child goes to school, major illnesses, moving a child’s residence more than 50 miles, child care issues and similar issues that can have a significant impact on children. Minor decisions are whether the child has access to their own cell phone, what time the child goes to bed, whether a child is watching too much TV or not getting enough exercise, etc.. Many court cases are filed simply because one parent refuses to accept basic day-to-day decisions made by the other parent. However, the courts will not intervene unless the decision substantially affects the child’s best interests, or is in clear violation of prior court orders. Always speak with your divorce attorney before engaging with the other parent about your concerns.
Knowing When To Call DCF
You should call DCF (the Department of Child and Family Services) if you truly believe another person is abusing a child. Children are often injured for reasons that have nothing to do with abuse, and get every day bruises from playing, falling off a bike or playing sports. Calling DCF will not help you under these circumstances and, given the legal expectation that parents work together, calling DCF can actually hurt your case if there is no reasonable basis to call DCF (if the Judge decides you called DCF just to gain an advantage in the custody battle). Otherwise, if DCF does investigate you or the other parent, cooperate with their investigation since their findings can be accorded great weight by the court. The same analysis applies to calls to the police for assistance.
Don’t Talk to the Children About the Divorce
Don’t ask your child who he or she wants to reside with. Children are generally entitled to provide input to the court upon reaching the age of 12, but the court must first determine that the child is of sufficient age and maturity to express their wishes on the issues presented. If they are going to talk to the judge, it is fine to let them know so they are not surprised. But they should also know that their input will not be the only factor considered by the judge so they know that, whatever the outcome, it was not their responsibility to decide custody disputes between their parents.
Similarly, you should never disparage the other parent in front of the child, or directly to the child. In extreme cases, the court can find this to be parental alienation and a basis to award primary time-sharing, or even sole custody, to the other parent.
Divorce is a Difficult Process for you and Your Children
Depending on the facts of your individual case, divorce can be a difficult process for children, filled with anxiety and uncertainty. However, by working together that anxiety can be minimized, both for your child and yourself.
If you need guidance or assistance from an experienced Florida divorce attorney, schedule a consultation today by calling (850) 613-6923.