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Child Custody

When people divorce, the first question that comes up is "Who gets custody of the children?" Today in Florida, the answer is "No one gets custody." The reason for this is that Florida has done away with the legal concept of custody of children. In Florida the statute provides that there is a presumption of shared parenting. This means that although the divorce or dissolution of the marriage will end the legal relationship between the husband and wife, the legal relationship between the mother and the children and between the father and the children remains in place.

Of course, as a very practical matter, after the divorce the children are going to have to live somewhere and go to school in the area where they live and receive mail, etc. In a divorce proceeding we deal with what was formally known as custody by having the parents come up with a contact schedule and parenting plan to address where the children will live and how the parents will share the task of raising them.

Today the majority of parents both work outside the home. They may have very different work schedules. Because of this, there is no standard contact or visitation schedule. The old "every other weekend and divide the holidays" schedule really only works where one parent is working Monday through Friday from 9 to 5 and has no way to care for the children during the week. The parents are now required to come up with a parenting plan that is specifically tailored to their work schedules and the needs of the children.

If both parents are willing and able to cooperate and they live relatively close together, some kind of split, 50 - 50, contact plan can be considered. In other circumstances, some other schedule should be considered. As an example, several years ago I had a client who was an airline pilot. He was gone 3 or 4 days per week. In his case he had the children whenever he was home. It worked fine. A local magistrate, when imposing a temporary contact schedule, will make it every other week from Thursday after school until Monday morning when school begins. The point is that there is no "standard," there is only what works for each new set of families.

If the parents cannot agree then it will be the lawyer's job to convince the court that his or her parenting plan is best for the children and the court will decide and impose its opinion on the parents. If you need my help, go to my web site at www.peppler or call my office for a consult.

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