The common term “child custody” is not the legal term used in divorce and paternity cases although that is the term that comes to mind for most people when they think about who will have the children living with him or her most of the time. The statutes governing divorce and paternity matters refer to creating “parenting plans” and “time-sharing provisions” (often thought of as visitation) in every divorce decree and paternity order. Therefore, if you are a party in a divorce or paternity case, you, along with the other co-parent, will need to create a parenting plan for your child or you will need to be prepared to litigate why your proposed parenting plan is the one that should be ordered by the court.
In the event that parties are unable to create a parenting plan themselves, the court will utilize a standard known as “the best interests of the child” to create a parenting plan and a judge will consider a long list of factors such as:
- the ability and willingness of a party to encourage the child to have a relationship with the other parent;
- the ability and willingness of a party to consider the needs of a child;
- the length of time a child has lived in a particular environment;
- the moral fitness, mental and physical health of the parents;
- which parent provides a consistent routine, and
- which parent has typically handled certain parenting decisions and tasks in the past as some of the many factors to be taken into consideration if required to create a parenting plan in a divorce or paternity case.
A parenting plan has to outline who will be responsible for very specific parenting tasks such as who will make certain decisions about a child’s healthcare, school, and other activities and it must describe in detail how parents will manage the daily tasks associated with raising a child. The law does not favor the mother or the father when determining which parent will have which rights and what a time-sharing schedule between a parent and child will look like. It is public policy that every child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents unless it would be detrimental to the child. A Jacksonville child custody attorney at our office can help you negotiate the best parenting plan for you and your child or aggressively litigate the issue in court.
We offer a free, initial half hour consultation either by phone or at the office and will discuss with you your options for proceeding, services and costs. To speak with a Jacksonville divorce attorney or family law lawyer, contact us today at (904) 683-3639.