Our Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediators at Mediation of Coral Springs, Inc. sometimes mediate divorce cases with parties who are unrepresented by legal counsel and they have misconceptions about how “custody” is determined under Florida Family Law statutes. Often, one spouse will tell our mediators that he or she wants “full custody” but can’t explain what this term means.
Although Florida used to be what was termed “custody” State where one parent was awarded “primary custody” and the other parent had what was known as “secondary custody”, and as well each parent had a “visitation” schedule with their child or children.
Florida Statute § 61.13 no longer contains the terms custody or visitation, but they have been replaced with “time-sharing” and “parenting plan”. These changes were made because there was a perceived stigma about a parent having visitation with his or her child as opposed to spending time with the child. In addition, it was very common knowledge amongst attorneys that parents often would fight over which one of the would be designated as the primary residential parent. Just as there was a stigma attached to being required to visit with your child or children; there was also a stigma with being designated as the “secondary” custodial parent.
Although our Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediators are not legally allowed to give parties legal advice, we can educate them about what is contained in Florida Statutes such as § 61.13. One way that Mediation of Coral Springs, Inc. can accomplish this is to point parents to the presumed equality of patents contained in this section which states that “It is the public policy of this state that each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents separate or the marriage of the parties is dissolved and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing.”
In addition, our Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediators often provide each parent with a blank “Parenting Plan” form that the Florida Supreme Court has developed and made mandatory in Family Law cases. It is not uncommon for our mediators to explain that the Parenting Plan needs to be completed as to what is in the best interest of their child instead what is in the best interest of the parents. No two parenting plans are alike, since the need of each child may differ especially when you take into consideration the age(s) of the child or children who subject to the Parenting Plan.
Once the parents agree to a time-sharing schedule in a Parenting Plan, the only step that is left is to have the Court approve it and make it part of a Final Judgment.
At Mediation of Coral Springs, Inc., we recognize that every mediation is unique and that every child may have his or her own specific needs which must be taken into consideration when assisting parents in fashioning a Parenting Plan. If you have any questions, please free to contact our office.