Florida Child Visitation Guidelines: Family courts, as a matter of public policy, use the best interests of the child as its guiding principle in cases involving custody, support, visitation and time-sharing.
Florida courts also fundamentally promote the idea that it is usually in the best interests of the child to have a relationship with both parents.
Ideally divorced parents treat each other with respect at all times, particularly with regard to anything affecting their children.
At one time it was common for final orders of dissolution to include minimal language regarding child visitation.
Years ago, language such as “open and liberal visitation” and “reasonable visitation” were often used.
Due to the vagueness of those phrases, Florida courts have created guidelines for child visitation.
When couples with minor children divorce they must complete a parenting plan and file it with the courts.
The Florida Supreme Court approved document is “Form 12.995(a) Parenting Plan”, and is available on the Florida Supreme Court website, www.flcourts.org.
The instructions for that form state:
The best interests of the child(ren) is the primary consideration in the Parenting Plan. In creating the Parenting Plan, all circumstances between the parties, including the parties’ historic relationship, domestic violence, and other factors must be taken into consideration.
Determination of the best interests of the child(ren) shall be made by evaluating all of the factors affecting the welfare and interest of the minor child(ren), …
Ideally divorcing parents come to an agreement about the parenting, time-sharing, and visitation arrangements.
The courts will also accept a
proposed parenting plan that has been devised by one parent, and not yet
agreed to by the other parent.
Most importantly, parents must give careful consideration to the needs and best interests of the child when devising and negotiating a parenting plan.
Some counties publish detailed child visitation guidelines and parenting guidelines that are helpful in preparing a parenting plan.
For couples who are unable to agree on a parenting plan, family mediators are available and may be the best choice in some situations.
Divorcing parents, already in a stressful situation, may not readily grasp all of the detailed decisions necessary to create a thorough and thoughtful parenting plan.
Many divorces are bitter events. For some couples, it is only with monumental maturity that they are able to set aside their personal differences long enough to agree on how to care for their children.
But that monumental maturity is essential so that the children of divorce may have the best chance possible of leading happy and productive lives.
There are myriad considerations that must be addressed:
The Brevard County Child Visitation Guidelines published in 2002, succinctly states the following:
The Guidelines are only guidelines. They are not set in stone.
Any part of the provisions may be changed or eliminated by evidence indicating a need to change or eliminate a particular part.
The judges prefer that the parents consult and agree upon
visitation rights and other considerations because the parents best know
their work and other schedules and know their children best.”
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