There is a wide array of children's issues involved in divorce and paternity proceedings. Children's issues (even in paternity cases) are generally governed under the Dissolution of Marriage Statute in Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes.
Historically in the State of Florida, the terms custody and visitation were used to describe the relative roles of parents and their living circumstances with their children. More recently, the terms primary residence and contact or access became the legal terms to describe these living arrangements. At the present time, the Court utilizes and adjudicates time-sharing arrangements for parents under parenting plans which govern how the parties may communicate, make decisions, and otherwise co-parent their children in their separate households.
While historically the "tender years doctrine" provided that young children are presumed to best off residing with their mother unless detrimental circumstance existed, this doctrine is long abolished in present day. In determining time-sharing arrangements and parenting plans, the Court considers a host of factors set out in the Florida Statutes in making its determination regarding time-sharing and parenting plans with no presumption in favor of either parent to be afforded any more time than the other parent until actual consideration of all such factors.
While the Court may consider such an arrangement or accept an agreement for "joint custody" or "equal time-sharing" by the parties, it should be noted that this arrangement is not preferred by the courts and requires appropriate circumstances to justify or ratify an agreement for such arrangement.
Relocation of minor children with a parent thereby depriving the other parent of their regular access has become a major issue in our modern era. While the statutes and laws governing relocation remain in flux and are ever evolving, the courts will consider these matters on a case by case basis considering the specific circumstances for each desired relocation. The procedures for attempting to relocate or to stop the relocation of a parent with the child are continually changing under the Florida Statutes, and a parent on either side of the dispute should be well informed about the present procedures and notice requirements.
Along with the time-sharing parenting rights and parenting issues involved with children, comes a duty to support them. Each party, whether they provide the majority or minority of time-sharing has a duty to financially support their children. Under current Florida law, the Court provides child support guidelines to determine the amount of support to be paid by one parent to the other. The amount of support is based on several factors contained within the child support guideline formula including the actual net income of both parties, the number of children, appropriate daycare expenses, health insurance expenses, and possible other factors which may be appropriate to deviate from guideline support amounts either upward or downward. To determine net income, the Court utilizes each party's gross income from all sources including regular bonuses and income outside of employment, deducting allowances for state and federal income taxes, health insurance expense for the parties, child support ordered and paid for other children, mandatory retirement, mandatory union dues, or other possible deductions necessary to generate income. The Court may impute income to a party whom the Court finds to be voluntarily unemployed or underemployed despite available employment opportunity.
Family law cases involving children are uniquely emotional and require heightened sensitivity to the children often at the middle of the controversy. In most circumstances the children do not have their own voice in the courtroom and therefore advocacy on behalf of the parent should include advocacy on behalf of the children where family court matters are concerned.
At the Law Offices of Jonathan A. Zahler, P.A., we have vast experience in dealing with all child issues and are committed to providing our excellent representation for our clientele while focusing specifically on the sensitive nature of the proceeding and their effect upon children in family law matters.