Just because a couple divorces it should not change a father’s relationship with his children, yet often it does.
Many dads end up taking a back seat when it comes to child rearing responsibilities following a divorce. But as society has recognized the benefits of shared parenting, that’s starting to change.
There is a nationwide movement toward equally shared parenting – which, as the name suggests, does away with the notion that one parent’s time with their child takes precedent over the other.
Nearly 20 states are looking at changing the laws that govern which parent gets legal and physical control of a child after a divorce or separation.
Studies have found , and advocates argue, that children do better when they spend equal amounts of time with both parents, except in cases where it’s not in the best interest of the child.
Florida law states: “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. There is no presumption for or against the father or mother of the child or for or against any specific time-sharing schedule when creating or modifying the parenting plan of the child.
The key here is that in Florida there is no presumption for parents to have equal time. Efforts to include a presumption for equal time-sharing were made during the last legislative session as part of an alimony reform bill. But the bill died when the Legislature packed its bags and left early following a dispute over healthcare funding.
Critics argue that a presumption of shared parenting takes away the flexibility that parents have when raising their children along with the benefits of requiring parents to work together to develop a plan that fits their own situation. Unfortunately, in high-conflict divorce cases children too often end up as pawns as logical thinking gives way to emotion.
Although shared parenting may not be for everyone, and in cases where parents live far apart, or even in different states, it may not be feasible, fathers today still have more options available to them and courts are becoming more amenable to ordering equal shared parenting.
Let’s hope that when the Florida Legislature takes up alimony reform again during its next session that we see the presumption of equally shared parenting addressed.
Lori Barkus is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil and Family Law mediator and guardian ad litem. She handles matters relating to divorce, custody, child support, paternity, collaborative divorce, adoption, parental rights, and family law and civil mediation.
Ms. Barkus is a cum laude graduate of the University of Miami School of Law. She is admitted to practice in Florida, Georgia and the District of Columbia, as well as in the Southern and Middle Districts of Florida and the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court of Appeals. She is also a member of Leading Women for Shared Parenting.
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