Shared custody is trending upward

Divorcing Florida parents should know the days of a father automatically being relegated to every-other-weekend parenting are no more. All across the nation, legislators and judges are pushing a trend toward shared parenting. Fully integrating each parent into the lives of children has shown to benefit child development along with easing the pain of parents who would have been forced to spend more time separated from children under previous standards.

While shared, or joint, custody may be the goal, it is not an automatic conclusion for judges presiding over divorces and child custody disputes. The guiding principle in determining temporary or final parenting plans is the best interests of the children involved. In seeking to ascertain the best arrangements, judges consider the total circumstances including residential, work, and behavioral factors. Parents with histories of inappropriate aggression or abusive behaviors will likely have to prove themselves over time and under supervision before being fully trusted with children in their sole care for extended periods. If parents live far apart, school commute times may become a factor in determining parenting schedules. If one parent would require extensive outsourcing of childcare while the other would not, it could be a factor for a judge.

Although judges are empowered to determine custody arrangements, the best arbiters of children's best interests are often their parents. If parents can set aside their personal feelings and focus on the children involved, they can often work together and find workable solutions that benefit children in spite of unpleasant feelings between parents. This strategy falls under the heading of collaborative divorce, which is where the parties employ lawyers, mediators, or counselors to focus on solutions rather than acrimony.

There are high stakes for parents dealing with custody and visitation issues. Having a qualified and experienced family law attorney may mean comfort and clarity while navigating challenging times.

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