Child Custody & Visitation Question
by Anonymous from Florida
Child Custody & Visitation Question:
In my divorce decree the form states that the minor child was awarded to the mother.
Neither of us had lawyers and filled out the paperwork ourselves.
Does this mean that I (wife) have "custody" of my son?
It states that visitation is "liberal". What exactly does this mean?
Answer to Florida Child Custody Question
Several years ago, divorces with children were granted without the strict guidelines that are required now.
Many divorces were granted with marital settlement agreements that allowed for vague non-specific wording and phrases like those you mentioned.
It was acceptable to designate "custodial" and "non-custodial" parents.
The custodial parent was the parent with whom the child or children lived, and the non-custodial parent was the one who was granted visitation with the children.
Child support was granted to the custodial parent along with any provisions for decision making authority.
Usually, visitation was spelled out in a marital settlement agreement, but many MSA's used words like "liberal" and "generous" visitation, and did not spell out the times, means, and issues like vacations, holidays, and religious holidays.
The courts at that time left it up to parents to work out on their own what the visitation schedule would be with their children, and it was not necessary to file a formal schedule with the court. In practice, this left many divorced parents disappointed with the realities of loosely established visitation schedules.
Many parents were back in court in short order asking for the court to establish these issues once and for all. You can imagine the impact this had on the court's dockets, but more importantly, the impact on the children of these divorces. In neither case, was this a viable way of establishing custody and visitation issues.
So the Florida legislature made major changes to family law issues regarding children. "Custody" is now spelled out with a time-sharing schedule that provides for the number of over-nights a child or children spend with their parents and "parental responsibility" which provides for decision making authority among other things.
The time-sharing "over-nights" percentage is used to calculate the child support to be awarded, if any. Also, the time-sharing schedule, also known as the Parenting Plan, spells out the "visitation" schedule for the children with the "non-custodial" parent.
It is very confusing for parents to understand these new guidelines because most people still use the terms "custody" and "visitation" when they think and talk about these issues.
Simply put, custody is now "time-sharing" & "parental responsibility" and visitation is spelled out in a Parenting Plan. For a more complete explanation of these new terms and how they apply to child custody and visitation, have a look at our Florida Child Custody
So, to answer your questions practically and more directly, depending on how your final divorce order is worded, you are considered the parent with decision-making authority, and "liberal" visitation means no one is complaining. Notice:
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Our Self Help Guide, Modifying Custody & Visitation in Florida
, helps you navigate the court process and procedures once you file your documents with easy to follow checklists, links to websites, important addresses & phone numbers, and much more. Modifying Custody & Visitation In Florida
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