Navigating your way through Child Custody Law in Florida can be confusing. What is worse is that most of us enlist a Attorney to guide us in hopes that they will protect the best interest of the Children. Unfortunately this is often one of the biggest mistakes we can make. The hiring of an Attorney is recommended but never assume that an Attorney is going to know what doing the best for the Children means in your situation. It is important to be involved and that you do your own research to educate yourself about the Law and your rights. Here are some pointers to remember to keep ahead of the game.
- Document Everything!
Keep a journal and calendar. Document all visits, conversations, behaviors of the child and anything the other parent may say or do that may be relevant to your case. Make sure you include every detail with time and dates. Keep text messages and emails and remember to print them out and/or back them up somewhere on your computer in case you were to lose your phone. (scroll down)
- Never rely soley on what any Attorney, Mediator or even Child Coordinator tells you.
You know in your gut what’s right, follow that. Most mediators and child coordinators are merely there to get both parents to compromise, which doesn’t necessarily mean whats “best” for the children.
- Stick your grounds on important points.
Part of the game for attorneys in custody cases is to try to wear you down hoping you’ll eventually give in. Don’t! Never believe what is written by an attorney in any pleadings, motions or hearing memos. They can write anything they want in these documents and usually do weather there is any factual basis behind it or not. So don’t be discouraged when you read their pleadings. Make notes next to anything that is not factual and write a counterclaim statement to each point.
- Write a Time Sharing Schedule around what is best for your children.
Unfortunately you will need to make all time sharing and parenting decisions now for the next 18 years! This is one of the many flaws in the process today but nonetheless you have to do it. Every detail must be thought out and written in an agreement in advance including how all holidays will be divided, school schedules, pick up and drop offs, extra curriculars, and even healthcare for the children. Remember a agreement is anything you put into it! So if you think of something specific that you want in the agreement make sure you write it in. This could mean anything from babysitters to travel notices. Never assume something small can be figured out later. If it is something you think should be mandated, make sure you have it written in the agreement now! “The Parenting Plan”…. which is the document the court requires you to file in all child custody cases, is hard to change once filed. The best rule to live by is “when in doubt write it out”!
- The Percentage of time each parent has does not always equal child support amount.
In Florida, the Child Support is based on income of the parents more than the amount of time each parent has. So long as the paying parent has the child for at least 20% of the time, the numbers in child support change very little. The number of children also plays a factor of course. Child Support can be anywhere from 4% to 20% of a person’s income depending on how many children and the income of both parents. Remember Alimony and Child Support are two separate things. If you were not married, you are only entitled to child support based on the needs of the children.
- This is hurting your children more than you.
Granted, it is sometimes hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when having to go through the court systems to determine the rest of your children’s lives. But remember however hard it is on you, it is probably harder on your children. Try to remain calm and never speak badly about the other parent around your child. Keep in mind that in a perfect world the presence of both parents is needed in a child’s life. Do everything you can to encourage the relationship of your children and your ex. You may think that he or she is a real slimeball, but to your children.. it is still Mom and Dad.
See Florida child support guidelines, forms and procedures http://www.flcourts.org/gen_public/family/forms_rules/902e.pdf
See a sample Florida Parenting Plan http://www.flcourts.org/gen_public/family/forms_rules/995a.pdf
Also good reading….. A Parent’s Bill of Rights (Shared Parenting by Beth Reineke) http://www.bethreineke.com/Family-Law-Practice/Parent-s-Bill-of-Rights-Shared-Parenting.shtml
Do you have a personal experince about your child support/custody case you’d like to share? Knowledge is power so please share your comments. Parenthood is an elite club… Let’s help eachother out! :)
Written by Tampa Bay Examiner Writer : STACY ROGERS
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