Issues You Can Encounter as A New Stepparent

Divorces can result from many kinds of conflicts, including challenges that arise between a stepparent and stepchildren in blended families.

Although every situation is different, there are some common problems that occur in these types of relationships, and understanding these problems can help stepparents modify their behavior, and create a more positive environment.

Child Feels Stepparent Treats Biological Children Differently 

In situations in which you have your own biological children, one of the most common challenges you may have is trying to make sure that you give your stepchild the same care, attention and discipline that you give to your biological child.

stepparent

Stepchildren may perceive that you favor your own child, which can create conflict in a household, and lead to problems with your spouse and other family members.

Try to create the same rules for all your children, and make sure that the consequences for breaking house rules are the same. Also, be aware of the time and attention you are giving to all of the children in your blended family, keeping in mind that each child is special and deserves fair and equal time.

Stepparent Feels Stepchild Doesn’t Show Any Respect

In some instances, you may feel that your stepchild doesn’t respect your authority because you are not their biological parent. This can create resentment and hostility if the situation is not dealt with in a loving and age-appropriate manner.

You can help diffuse this tension by sitting down with your stepchild or stepchildren, and  explain that you have no intention of trying to replace their biological parent, and that you simply want to be there for them as much as possible.

Communicating in a way that acknowledges their fears about your role in their life can go a long way toward creating a more harmonious relationship.

Stepparent Bad Mouths Biological Parent

As a stepparent, you should never make any disparaging comments to your stepchild about the biological parent who is not in your household. Making negative comments or opinions about their biological parent will most definitely cause your stepchild to experience feelings of confusion, anxiety, resentment, and a host of other residual negative emotions. No matter how mature you think your stepchild is, exposing them to the problems you have with their biological parent will create these negative emotions. Your stepchild may believe you are trying to undermine the relationship with their biological parent, when that may have not been your intention at all.  In any case, making negative or disparaging comments about the biological parent, does not produce positive results.

If you have any issues with your stepchild’s biological parent, arrange for a time when you and your spouse can meet with that person and air out your differences.

If your stepchild is the one who is disparaging their biological parent, it is your responsibility as an adult to speak to your spouse, and address your stepchild’s concerns with the biological parent.

Helping Families Through Difficult Times

All the suggestions for establishing a strong relationship with your stepchildren are still valid if you are faced with a divorce with their biological parent. In fact, if you hope to maintain a bond with your former stepchildren, these tips can help set the stage for the future.

The Law Office of Eric C. Cheshire has handled difficult family law situations for more than 25 years. Please call us at 651-655-8844 if you need to discuss a family legal situation. We are always here to lend our expertise in this area in any way we can.

Additional Reading

Getting Through the Emotional Stages of Divorce

Steps To Protecting Children Emotionally During a Divorce

Five Child Relocation Considerations And How it will Affect Child Custody

Summertime is a popular time for people to think about moving, whether it’s to a bigger house in the same neighborhood, or to a different city or state because of a job.  When relocating, you might be considering what part of town and style of house you’d like to live in and whether your new home will be in proximity to schools and shops.  When child relocation involves custody issues, whether pre- or post-divorce, there are additional things you might want to consider before you relocate.

  1. How far are you planning on moving?  

Whether you are moving within the State of Florida or moving out of state, where you are moving to, and how far the location is from your current residence is an important consideration.  Under child relocation laws, if you decide to move more than fifty miles from your current residence, then you are required to file a petition that informs the court and your ex-spouse of your intent to move.  This is required even if your divorce and parenting plan/custody agreement is still pending.

  1. Talk to your ex-spouse

If you are considering a move, you may be able to avoid filing a petition if your ex-spouse consents to the relocation in a written agreement.  This agreement must define the time-sharing rights of both parents or any other person who may be entitled to visitation, and it must describe any transportation agreements related to visitation.  Of course, the Court should sign off on this agreement.

  1. Be prepared to provide detailed information about your planned relocation 

When filing a petition or reaching an agreement with your ex-spouse, you should be able to provide information on your new residence, when you intend to move, why you are planning on moving, and you will also have to propose a post-move time-sharing schedule and transportation arrangement.

  1. It may be a while before you can actually move

If you file a petition for child relocation with the court, you cannot relocate during the time period that your ex-spouse has time to object to your petition, which is generally twenty days.  Moreover, if your ex-spouse does object to your move, you cannot move without court approval.  After your ex-spouse objects, there likely will be a hearing where the court will decide whether to allow the move.

  1. Above all, you should consider the best interests of your child, as this is the primary issue that the court considers when deciding whether to allow the relocation.

It is always important to consider the impact that a move might have on your child.  Remember that they too will be starting over.  Maybe they will be attending a new school and will have to make new friends.  In addition, the best interests of the child are what the court considers when determining whether to grant a relocation.  Relocation cannot be based solely upon a finding that the move would serve the best interests of the parent and not their child.

Overview of Florida’s Relocation Law

Under Florida law relocation means that a parent is relocating at least fifty miles from their current residence and that they intend to live there for at least sixty consecutive days.  This definition does not include temporary relocations for purposes of education, vacation, or providing the child with health care.

If you are seeking to relocate, you should either provide the court with a written agreement regarding the relocation or file a petition to relocate.  If you and your ex-spouse can reach a consensus on the relocation, then a written agreement may be the best way to obtain approval from the court.  The written agreement must contain:

(a) the consent of both parents regarding the relocation;
(b) a custody time-sharing schedule that specifically addresses visitation for the parent who is not relocating; and
(c) a transportation arrangement that is necessary to achieve the time-sharing schedule.

Without an agreement, any parent who wants to relocate must file a petition with the court.  Florida law very specifically outlines what must be included in the petition, and if properly filed, in most cases there will be a hearing to determine whether the petition for child relocation should be granted.  The parent who is seeking to relocate must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the move is in the best interest of the child.  The court considers the following when making a decision on child relocation:

  • The relationship that the child has with the relocating and non-relocating parent, and whether there are other significant relationships, such as with relatives who live nearby;
  • The age and the needs of the child and whether the relocation will impact their development;
  • Whether the relationship that the child has with the non-relocating parent can be preserved;
  • Whether the child has a preference;
  • Whether the quality of life will be enhanced for both the relocating parent and the child;
  • Any pros and cons of the relocation as provided by the parents;
  • The economic circumstances of the parents and whether relocating will improve those circumstances;
  • Whether the relocating parent is seeking to move in good faith;
  • Whether there are any job opportunities for the parent who objects to the relocation if that parent also decides to relocate to stay close to the child;
  • Whether there is any history of substance abuse or domestic violence;
  • Any other factors that might affect the best interest of the child.

It is important to note that anyone who has a legal right to visitation with a minor child such as a grandparent, step-parent, or guardian, who might lose visitation or time-sharing with the child, has the same rights as the parents to file an objection to a relocation and make their case before the court.

Contact Our Dedicated and Knowledgeable West Palm Beach Family Law Attorney

If you are planning to move this summer with your child or even if your ex-spouse is moving away with your child it is important that you consult with an experienced Attorney.  Eric C. Cheshire, P.A. is dedicated exclusively to divorce and family law, and as such, we will advocate for your rights and interests in any related pre- or post-divorce cases.  Call us today at (561) 655-8844 to schedule your consultation and find out what we can do for you.

 

Reasons for Child Relocation That Are Considered by the Courts

Child relocation cases require balancing the needs of both parents and the child. Luckily, parents can’t just decide to move away from the other parent.  If a new custody agreement cannot be reached between the parents, then the court gets involved to make changes to the child custody agreement. There are many reasons for child relocation that are considered by the court.  A court might adjust a custody agreement to allow for relocation for the following reasons.

Economics

Economic reasons for child relocation are often cited in relocation petitions. In fact, even when other factors motivate the request, the court will look at the likely economic impact of a possible move. It is a logical approach since a family’s economic situation clearly affects the child’s well-being. While a parent moving out of state can create visitation difficulties for the other parent, courts recognize that adults sometimes need to move because they are being transferred by their current employer or have significantly better job opportunities in a different location. In this situation, the courts seek to determine what is in the best interest of the child by weighing the potential economic benefits against the possibility of damaging the other parent’s relationship with the child.

Remarriage

When a parent remarries, they may petition the courts for permission to join their new spouse in a different state. Alternately, they may seek a change in the existing custody order because of their current spouse, the child’s stepparent, needs to relocate for professional reasons. Since the child is likely to benefit from the pooling of their new family unit’s resources, courts will consider the potential for good, the necessity of the move and the chance that it will disrupt the other parent’s relationship with their child.

Relationships with Extended Family

It is not uncommon for parents to ask to relocate so that they can be closer to their extended family. Most argue that being near other family members will provide a stronger support network and afford them assistance with childcare so that the parent can work or further their education. If the court is convinced that the move will offer the child advantages, it may allow it. However, the request may be viewed unfavorably if the court feels that the move will create a needless disturbance in the child’s environment or generate unreasonable hardships for the other parent.

Personal Reasons for Child Relocation

Other personal reasons for child relocation can be also be used. For example, parents who request a change in the custody agreement so that they can move to join a new romantic partner may find the court willing to allow it if they can convince the court that the move will ultimately create a better situation for the child. However, if both parents are actively involved and have a healthy relationship with their child, one parent may be able to block the petition by arguing that it would unnecessarily interfere with their parental rights.

Related articles about Child Relocation:

The issue of child custody is delicate and complex. In any child custody relocation case, all relevant factors are weighed to determine whether a move is in the child’s best interests. In this complicated situation, it is crucial that you have an attorney capable of guiding you through the process and safeguarding your interests. With more than 25 years of experience in divorce and family law, attorney Eric C. Cheshire has the knowledge and integrity to provide assistance with a variety of child custody issues. Contact Cheshire Family Law today to schedule a consultation.

Time Sharing Modification to Change Parenting Plan for Child Custody

Time sharing modification

Life never stands still, so change is inevitable. Usually time sharing is established when a couple first gets divorced, but sometimes time sharing modification is necessary.

When it comes to matters of parenting plans and child custody, making adjustments can be tricky, and it is essential to have any alterations documented properly. How do you accomplish this?

Review the existing custody order.

Before you can determine how to change your parenting plan, it makes sense to spend a little time reviewing the existing time sharing court order. Read through it carefully. Think about what is working for your family, what is not and why. Identify alternative options.

Decide what changes you would like to see.

When seeking solutions, consider the possibilities and decide what changes you would like to pursue. Assemble a list of reasons why you would like to see these changes.

  • Has either parent had a change in financial circumstances?
  • Does one parent want or need to relocate?
  • Is your child having an educational or emotional issue that deserves to be addressed?
  • Is the other parent not abiding by the existing plan or acting in an abusive manner?

Remember that the guiding factor that courts use to determine whether a time sharing modification or some other change to the parenting plan is warranted is whether it is in the best interests of the child.

Talk with the other parent.

While it is possible to modify a parenting plan over the objections of the other parent, it is easiest to do so if all interested parties agree to the change. If circumstances allow it, discuss your desire to modify the time sharing plan with the other parent and try to reach a suitable agreement. The courts appreciate it when parents make a real effort to work together to handle the inescapable challenges of parenting, and they will generally look favorably on requests for parenting plan changes that both parties have agreed to. However, if your relationship is stormy or acrimonious, it may be necessary to skip this step and go straight to your lawyer for assistance in seeking any modifications.

Seek legal assistance.

If for any reason both parties cannot come to a reasonable agreement, you will need to get the courts involved. A child custody hearing will be held to present your request and explain why the changes are in the child’s best interest. Your family lawyer can provide guidance in how to best make your case. The other parent will have a chance to respond, and the court will decide whether to alter the time sharing plan.

Even if both parents agree to change parenting plan, you will want to speak with your lawyer and have a document that outlines the new plan drawn up and approved by the courts. This prevents confusion and limits the likelihood that the other parent might go to court later and claim that you are interfering with their parental rights by not respecting the parenting plan.

At Cheshire Family Law, we’ve been helping Florida families find the solutions they need since 1988. For assistance with time sharing modifications and other child custody issues, contact us today at (561) 655-8844.

 

Top Reasons to File for Modification of Child Custody

modification of child custody

Some child custody arrangements don’t work out as the parents had hoped or planned. Unforeseen circumstances, such as a job relocation to a new city, can force parents to attempt a change in their current custody arrangement. In these cases, parents must work with the courts to establish a new agreement that puts the interests of the child or children at the front.

Understanding the common reasons for modification of child custody agreements and the process involved can help you prepare for the changing situations in your own life.

Reasons for a Change in Child Custody

To qualify for a modification to a child custody agreement, the court must believe the reasoning presented by the parent or parents is serious enough for a change. The court will consider the needs of the child first; a parent complaining about a slightly longer drive to pick up their child probably won’t be granted a modification.

  • Relocation is a common reason to alter child custody if it meets certain thresholds. The judge must weigh a number of factors, including the reason for the move and how the move could affect the current schedule of visitations. The judge must also consider the effect a change could have on the schedule of the child when it comes to school and extracurricular activities.
  • The loss of income and the inability to provide a comfortable environment for the child are other common reasons for a change in child custody.
  • The behavior of a parent can also give cause for the other parent to request a change. If the child is believed to be in danger, for example, the parent can petition for full custody of the child.
  • A lack of cooperation when it comes to keeping to the visitation schedule can also lead to a change. The uncooperative parent will need to explain to the judge his or her reasoning to prevent modification to the custody agreement.

The Process of Modifying Child Custody Agreements

Depending on whether the parents are willing to cooperate with each other, a child custody change can come about in two different ways.

  1. If only one parent wants a modification of child custody, a motion must be presented to the court and the other parent must be notified. The parent who wants the alteration will need to demonstrate that the change is necessary in order to benefit the child. In a situation dealing with potential child abuse, for example, the parent will need to present a witness and police reports to the court.
  2. However, if both parents are willing to work together to modify the current child custody agreement, they won’t need to worry about lengthy court proceedings. The parents can simply present a document to the court outlining the changes that they wish to make to their agreement. The court will need to approve it before it will go into effect.

If you think you have a valid reason for a modification in child custody agreement, first, talk to your ex-spouse. You might be able to reach an amicable decision. If that doesn’t work, then call a family law attorney. They can help navigate through the process of changes in child custody. Feel free to contact us via our online form and Attorney Cheshire will reply back to you personally.

7 Tips if Fighting for Child Custody

If you’re facing a divorce, fighting for child custody can be an arduous journey. You may need to pick your battles carefully and decide which aspects of child custody can be compromised with your current spouse.

Fighting for Child Custody

Although emotions run high during this time, it’s important to take a realistic approach and take stock of your situation before you decide to fight.

We hope these tips will help you towards a successful outcome.

Don’t Assume You Will Win by Default

Factors that judges use when couples are fighting for child custody are always changing. Being the mother of the children doesn’t mean you will automatically get custody of your children. In the past, some lifestyle situations, such as a recovery from a drug addition, played a major role in the court’s decision. However, some of today’s judges don’t give these circumstances much weight.

Consider Your Child’s Needs Above All

Before you begin fighting for child custody with your spouse, consider whether this choice is the best option for your children. In many cases, the judge will decide on a child custody agreement that maintains stability for the children. If your post-divorce lifestyle won’t provide a good environment for your children, fighting for child custody might not be the best choice.

A Lengthy Battle Will Result in High Legal Costs

If you and your spouse can’t come to an amicable time sharing agreement, you will face mounting legal bills as you continue to allow the courts to decide for you. We realize you would spend every last dime if you truly believe that your children shouldn’t be with your spouse, but going broke won’t help your children either. Be prepared for the financial cost, and keep in mind the extent of your financial limits.

Plan for Rising Stress Levels

Pursuing a lengthy child custody battle will probably result in excessive amounts of stress. Recognize this fact and plan ahead for ways to relieve the stress of endless court dates and legal arguments. Taking care of yourself will help your children have a stable home environment when they’re with you. You’ll also be less likely to have an angry outburst during the legal proceedings.

Finding a Good Lawyer

Even though you could attend child custody hearings on your own, but it will help you tremendously if you work with a lawyer to walk you through the process. You’ll benefit from their experience of the process as well as the local court system. Spend some time researching potential child custody lawyers. Look for lawyers who are experienced in your local laws and who can answer your child custody questions.

Be Prepared for Intensive Scrutiny

During child custody hearings, your parenting skills and personal habits will fall under close examination. Look for ways you can make noticeable improvements in your parenting. Even if you’re a wonderful parent, there may be some minor areas that could use some improvement. For example, you could work on being more patient with your children and keeping your cool.

Gather Important Documents

Many times, the success of a child custody proceeding depends on the evidence you can provide. Keeping a log showing how much time you regularly spend with your children can be useful. You can also use other documents to show your involvement, such as notes from your child’s teachers or bank statements showing your financial support. On the flip side, also keep a log of your ex-spouse’s interaction. Try not to be petty, but to show habits and the emotions of the child.

Deciding to seek custody of your children is not a decision that you should take lightly. Careful consideration can help you make the best choice for you and your children.  Attorney Cheshire has been helping families since 1988 navigate through the legal system when it comes to child custody and other family law issues. Call him today at 561-655-8844 for a consultation to see how he can assist you with your case. Or fill out the Family Law Question on the left side of the page. He will reply to you personally.

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Top 4 Ways to Sabotage Child Custody Litigation

Divorce is never easy, and can become even more complicated when kids are involved. Child custody litigation can be emotionally and financially draining, especially when parents fight back and forth. Many times, things are said and done that can negatively affect family relationships.

To avoid problems during child custody litigation, it is essential to understand the issues that commonly sabotage a parent’s custody case.

At the law firm of Eric C. Cheshire, P.A., we have encountered these 4 offenses that happen more often than others during child custody litigation.  If possible, try to avoid them at all costs.

1. Moving in with a Boyfriend or Girlfriend

During a divorce, this is a major offender in child custody litigation.  Children have a difficult time dealing with the fact that their parents are separating. It is hard to see parents moving on, and it takes time for children to become comfortable with the idea new people will be entering the picture.Even though the parents are free to date other individuals, judges frown upon parents exposing their children to their new significant others during the divorce process. For the children’s well-being, it is best to keep new boyfriends and girlfriends away until things settle down after the divorce is final.

2. Taking Kids Out of the Area Without Advanced Notification

Even during the process of a divorce, before it is finalized, parents should agree on a visitation/time-sharing schedule. Besides setting dates and times, it is common courtesy to advise the other parent when a vacation or out-of-area trip is planned. If one parent leaves the area with the children, without notifying the other parent, it could be used against them in court, as the parent who left could be portrayed as withholding the children from the other parent. In this situation, the uninformed parent could have grounds to request that visitation be restricted or monetary sanctions imposed against the offending parent.

3. Failing to Pay Child Support

One parent is usually ordered by the Court to pay child support to the other parent. If one parent ignores this ruling, a judge may find the person in contempt, which can result in monetary sanctions or jail time, or both. Each parent has a legal obligation to support their children according to their needs and the parent’s financial abilities. In the state of Florida the financial obligation usually ceases when the child turns eighteen, although in certain cases involving special needs, it may extend beyond this age. Other factors may result in child support terminating prior to the age of maturity.Child support is calculated pursuant to Florida Statute 61.30, which uses a mathematical formula that considers the income of both parents, child care costs, medical insurance and expenses, and the amount of time the child spends with each parent, and which parent pays certain expenses.  See other factors in determining child support.

4. Alienating the Other Parent

Divorce can be very stressful and confusing to the children involved; and sometimes, they feel as though they are being torn between two people they love. When living apart, one parent may be in the habit of talking negatively about the other parent. This makes children feel like they must choose sides, which can be emotionally devastating and lead to parent alienation syndrome. The end result of parent alienation can leave children resenting or hating one of their parents, as well as developing emotional problems in the future.When parents invoke emotions of disrespect or even resentment toward the other parent, it can have lasting effects on a child. The child may develop separation anxiety or use the same techniques for dealing with relationships as an adult.

Not all children show the same signs of parental alienation; however, many children do develop some type of hostility, rejection, or a desire to stop speaking with, or spending time with the other parent. A young child may cling to one parent and avoid the other parent. An older child may develop sleep disorders or have anger issues. Other signs of alienation syndrome include:

  • Having trouble forming close relationships
  • Inappropriate feelings of vulnerability
  • Conflicts with authority
  • Withdrawing from social situations
  • Developing psychological dependency

By understanding the effects of divorce on children, you can also take steps in preventing this type of behavior.

Children sometimes suffer the most during the divorce process, but this does not have to be the case.  Parents can emotionally support their children when they may be experiencing feelings of anxiety, confusion, or a sense of displacement. The children are losing the security of a unified home and must deal with the stresses and uncertainty that come with having divorced parents. Understand the signs of parental alienation, and determine what you can do, keeping in mind that healthy and supportive co-parenting is a key component to insuring that the children’s best interests are first and foremost during and after the divorce.

Seeking custody of your children is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Careful consideration, and avoiding the common pitfalls that sabotage child custody litigation, can help you make the best choices for you and your children.  For more tips to successfully navigate through child custody litigation without sabotaging your case, it is wise to consult with an experienced lawyer who is exclusively dedicated to divorce and child custody matters.

Attorney Eric C. Cheshire has been helping families since 1988 navigate through the legal system when it comes to child custody and other family law issues. Call him today at 561-655-8844 for a consultation to see how he can assist you with your case. Or fill out the Family Law Question on the left side of the page. He will reply to you personally.

Different Types of Child Custody

During a divorce, there are four main types of child custody.  It is possible for both parents to end up with the terms of child custody with the court’s approval.

types of child custody

However, sometimes, the parents cannot reach a mutual decision about child custody. When this occurs, a child custody attorney is hired and mediation or litigation ensues.  At that time, the court has to make the decision about how the parents will share custody of their children.

The Four Primary Types of Child Custody

Sole Custody

In this case, a single parent will have either sole legal custody, sole physical custody or both. This type of child custody is awarded to a parent or a guardian if the other parent is deemed unfit to raise the child. In some cases, the family court will award this type of custody in a way that gives the noncustodial parent some opportunity to take part in the child’s life.

Shared Parental Responsibility

Shared parental responsibility is awarded to both parents and is on par with the terms of joint custody. The court usually awards this custody to both parents who show that they are fit to raise the child, and is in the child’s best interest. This type of child custody can be awarded as both joint legal custody and joint physical custody even if the two parents have never lived together.

Physical Custody

Physical custody is often referred to as timesharing. In this case, the child spends most of the time with one parent or guardian and only visits the other parent on occasion. Sometimes, both parents spend an equal amount of time with their child, rotating weekends, holidays, and weekdays.

Legal Custody

If a parent, grandparent or guardian has sole custody, that caregiver can make all the decisions regarding the child without consulting the other parent. However, in Florida, the court often awards shared parental responsibility to both parents, giving them legal rights concerning any decisions that need to be made regarding their child. In cases where the one parent is abusive or has ended communication, it is possible to convince the court that it’s in the best interest of your child for you to have sole legal custody.

Dealing With Child Custody Issues

The laws vary from state to state, so it’s important to talk with a qualified, experienced divorce/paternity lawyer when dealing with types of child custody issues. We also have a list of Florida Child Custody Guidelines on our website.

As a parent, a grandparent or a step-parent, you may find it more difficult to obtain your preferred custody without legal representation. Divorce is difficult on its own, so understanding the types of child custody and what you need to do can reduce your stress and make the transition easier on your child.

Call Eric C. Cheshire, Esquire P.A. for a consultation on your case. (561) 655-8844 or feel free to fill out our “Family Law Questions” on our website. This question is sent directly to Attorney Cheshire and he will reply back to you.

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Child Custody and Religion During a Divorce

Questions of religion and parenting during a divorce are some of the most challenging. Interfaith couples are likely to have differences of opinion about the religion their children should practice. In most cases, religion does not come up as a key factor in divorce proceedings, unless children are involved.

child custody

Then, religion becomes an important part of a divorcing couple’s co-parenting discussion. When faced with such concerns, many divorcing couples turn to the Family Law court to help balance the two different faith principles in order to keep the best interest of the child at the forefront.

From a legal standpoint, when parents of different religions do not agree on their child’s future religious upbringing, the Family Law court is required to balance the best interest of the child with the parents’ right to freely exercise the religion of her or his choice. How the court decides what is in the best interest of the child depends upon

  • the facts of the case
  • the law of the state that guides that family law court
  • the legal standards which the court will use to make the determination.

Legal Standards Impacting Co-Parenting Child Custody and Religion

Protection Of First Amendment Rights –

Regardless of religious ideology, parents have the legal right to teach their faith to their children under their First Amendment rights to free speech. This right is protected and may be exercised as long as it does not affect the well-being of the child. The Constitution of the United States vests parents with the right to direct the basic upbringing of their children, including the freedom to raise their children in the faith of the parents’ choice. When divorcing parents do not share the same faith, co-parenting becomes a challenge after a divorce because the First Amendment permits both parents to expose their children to their respective religious beliefs. The State of Florida follows what is known as the actual or substantial harm standard.

What does this mean for you? Sole custody may give you the right to determine the religion your child will be raised in, but it may not give you the right to prevent your ex-spouse from taking your child to a different church or exposing your child to different religious beliefs during visitation periods.

Best Interests of the Child

Apart from the parent’s First Amendment rights to free speech, Family Law courts also take into account the best interests of the child when arriving at a decision regarding religious upbringing.  The difficulty in this scenario is enforcement of the determination since the child may spend extended time over the weekends or holidays with the parent with visiting rights. In such cases, the child may not have the opportunity to attend religious services with the other parent or the visitation parent might be unable to visit their place of worship with the child.

Children aged 12 and above may be asked by the Family Law court and judge to express their personal opinion about the matter and suggest ideas for their participation in a particular faith. Family Law courts are bound to determine what is in the best interests of the child, and this is not necessarily going to guarantee either parent’s religious exclusivity.

Cultural Shifts in Custody Agreements

 With the rise in interfaith marriage and collaborative divorces, as well as the wide array of parenting methods, more and more divorced couples are agreeing to highly detailed shared custody arrangements that detail co-parenting duties with great specificity, including how they will practice and talk about their religious faith with their children. The custody agreement document may even prohibit either parent from speaking critically of the other’s faith and from “sharing their religious experience” in an effort to influence the child toward one faith over the other. While it may seem that these highly-detailed agreements seem ‘more the necessary’, these documents do indeed help divorcing parents work through these questions in advance of challenging periods, such as holidays or traditional family gatherings. Custody plans of this nature may also include plans for education, discipline and whether outside of school activities are in line with the child’s upbringing.

What Can You Do To Ensure Your Child’s Future Religious Upbringing

First, keep in mind that the courts are very reluctant to restrict a parent’s constitutional rights or parenting rights, so weighing these competing interests in a post-divorce contest over the children’s faith can be a balancing act.  Courts have little reason to provide for either parent’s religious exclusivity – the best interest of the child comes first and that typically includes an introduction to both parent’s religions.

If you do end up going to court to resolve a situation involving child custody and religion, keep in mind that you have the best chance of success if you have sole or ultimate decision making custody. If you find yourself going in this direction, a reputable Family Law attorney with a strong background in divorce and child custody cases will be your best ally to successfully work through custody and post-divorce parenting concerns. We’re here to help you, please contact our office for an initial consultation: (561) 655-8844

Tips for Working Through Time Sharing and Child Visitation Challenges

Time-sharing and post-divorce family living isn’t as easy as it looks on paper. Once you and your ex-spouse complete the process of divorce and separate households, you may see and welcome this as a ‘fresh start’. However your children may experience a longer post-divorce  adjustment period and they may continue to feel a roller coaster of emotions as a result of  the change.

father son reading

When this happens, even the most amicable of co-parenting arrangements can prove stressful.

Many, if not most, children have a difficult time comprehending and adapting to new life circumstances. Different living arrangements and unknown things, places and people can be unsettling to a child. There may be a new step-parent or partner in one (or both) households, the change in neighborhood and daily routine can lead a child to withdraw, throw tantrums, cry and act out in anger without cause. In essence, kids frequently respond to post-divorce change with feelings rather than reason.

Due to this, people sometimes feel divorce is psychologically harmful for kids, though research actually shows divorce generally does not harm children over the long-term unless other factors come into play. When both parents are respectful of each other, actively involved with parenting and are loving toward their children, there is little opportunity for emotional or psychological harm to occur.

Still, even with no negative activity or harmful behavior going on in either household, children may become unruly and emotional for unexplainable reasons and refuse to leave one parent to go to the other parent’s house at switch time. It’s one of the most common issues divorced parents face with time-sharing. What can you do to make this process easier and smoother for your family?

Here are 5 top co-parenting and visitation tips to keep in mind when faced with a child refusing to switch homes for visitation:

1. Recognize And Respect The Co-Parenting Arrangement And Responsibilities.

 As the custodial parent, do your best to maintain a good relationship and attitude toward your ex-spouse so that your child or children feel a sense of ease and security with both parents. Part of your responsibility is to encourage, and even require, your child or children to visit and spend time with their other parent, as scheduled.

Keep in mind, you may be in trouble if you don’t comply with the court’s order on  visitation. Your ex-spouse can ask the judge to hold you in contempt of court if  you intentionally fail to comply with the visitation order by not sending, or refusing to send, your child for visitation.

2. Express Understanding And An Encouraging Attitude To Your Child Or Children.

Know that adjusting to living in two separate households may be challenging for your child, and expect that it will take time for the adjustment period. In the meantime, show your child or children the understanding and encouragement they need to make the transition and be  as supportive as possible.

3. Be Caring But Firm About The Visitation When Your Child Refuses To Cooperate.

It may take more than once that you’ll need to explain to your child that part of having parents living apart is spending time with both parents.  Share with them how much both parents equally love them and want to spend time together . Remember, it may take time before kids have adjusted to living in two households and different routines at each. As the adult, it’s your job to be supportive and caring but also to make the decision to follow through with the visitation as directed by the courts.

4. Make Ongoing Efforts To Check In With Your Child About How They Feel About The Assigned Living Arrangements.

While children are young and in their formative years, time-sharing custody provides an important reminder that their parents still love them and will remain a fundamental part of the lives.  As children become teenagers, visitation with your ex-spouse may change in scope due to outside school activities and even after-school/part-time employment.  Perhaps in recognition of this fact, the courts largely tend to hold older teenagers responsible for their behavior with respect to visitation, not the custodial parent.  Nonetheless, children of all ages benefit from maximum possible contact with both parents so actively encourage teens to maintain visitation as ordered by the family court.

5. Over Time, Modification To The Time-Sharing Arrangement May Be Required.

What worked well for co-parenting at the beginning of the post-divorce period may not work well as children grow and/or parent work obligations change.  The co-parenting arrangement should always be made with the best interest of the child or children in mind – it is for their benefit and well-being that such arrangements are formally made by the courts.  When you become aware that visitation may be detrimental to your children’s academic progress or perhaps your ex-spouse has a new job (or workload) that prevents adequate time, attention and supervision of your children during the visitation, then it may be time to go back into court and ask for a modification, which may trigger a custody evaluation by the court.

If you are a parent who shares custody with your ex-spouse, remember that your child did not choose for his or her parents to get married or divorced, and as such they should suffer as little as a possible as a result of the dismantling of the marital relationship.

Provide your children the support they need  to express how they feel about the living arrangements, and try not react too emotionally to whatever feelings they share.  If a child resists the idea of visitation, or prefers to live with one parent over the other, it naturally makes life tough for the parents.

Though working through these familial time-sharing challenges can be difficult, the most successful parent and parent-child relationships will always be those where the child feels that his or her feelings are respected. Ultimately, time-sharing and visitation rights are more inclusive than simply setting up a schedule. It is a connection to both parents. And continuing to have a connection with both parents is absolutely essential for  the well-being and successful future of your child and children.