In Florida, as in most states, when a court considers custody issues in a divorce case, it will take into consideration “the best interest of the child.” Children are no longer automatically given to the mother. Instead, the judge will determine which home and/or parent can provide them with the most stability and best care. The belief that a mother is the best caretaker of her children is proven to be a myth.
In the absence of any abuse or neglect by either parent, sharing custody has proven to have the most benefits for the children. There are some myths surrounding this, such as that children prefer to live in one home only instead of dividing their time between two parents. That is strongly contradicted by adult children of divorce, who have stated that a good relationship with both parents was beneficial, regardless of the associated inconvenience of moving between two households.
Many believe – incorrectly – that following a divorce children form a strong bond with one parent. This myth is especially harmful because young children are attached to both parents, even if the parents are no longer living together.
Parenting Schedules for Infants
Much has been learned about infant development in the past decades. This new knowledge has shifted the way custody sharing of an infant is determined.
One myth regarding infants is that youngsters form attachments to their primary caregiver with long-lasting consequences. Previously, the infant’s bond with the primary caregiver was strongly emphasized. This led to a weakening of the bond between the infant and the non-custodial parent. Recent studies have determined that infants attach to both parents.
A second divorce myth has been the need for consistency in the children’s post-divorce lives. When the need for consistency interferes with both parents being involved in the children’s lives, such as with playing, bedtime, meals, bathing, etc., the children are missing out on a critical bond with the non-custodial parent. When a parent is actively involved in all aspects of a child’s life, he or she forms a stronger attachment and is better able to anticipate the child’s needs and habits. If only the custodial parent forms such an attachment, the non-custodial parent and the child lose out on a bond that is meant to form their relationship for a lifetime.
The fact is, co-parenting is all-encompassing and involves all aspects of the child’s life, not just playing games every other weekend.
A third myth is that small infants are unaware and/or unaffected by the conflict between co-parents. The truth is that while infants may not understand the details of the situation, they can react negatively to arguments and loud voices. The more co-parents argue, the less cooperation they are able to establish, creating greater tension in the child’s life. The more tension within the family structure, the more likely it is that one parent will withdraw his or her total involvement with the child, thus diminishing their relationship.
Myths of Child Custody in the State of Florida
Many parents are confused about custody and support issues following a divorce in Florida. Here are just some of the common misbeliefs:
- Shared custody requires equal 50-50 sharing. Florida no longer requires custody to be equal but focuses on the best interest of the child, instead.
- Courts used to automatically favor mothers in custody cases. However, Florida courts now base custody determination on which parent is best able to act in the best interest of the child.
- It used to be believed that for the father to be involved in the child’s life, his name needed to be on the birth certificate. That is not necessarily the case in Florida. Even without being officially named, he can establish paternal rights.
- The State of Florida has no specific age when the courts allow children to state a preference in custody matters, although it will consider a child’s wishes, regardless of age. The child’s age and reasoning will be considered when considering their preference.
- It was common to believe that fathers were automatically responsible for child support. This is not true. Instead, the courts consider each parent’s income, the ability to meet expenses, and the time each parent can spend with the children. Unmarried fathers are not required to be named on the birth certificate to ask for or be responsible for child support payments.
- It is commonly believed that receiving child support is optional. However, in Florida, a child has the legal right to financial support from both parents. The waiving of support by either parent is not permitted under Florida law as that would not be considered in the best interest of the child.
- Many parents believe that if child support payments aren’t made, the custodial parent can keep the child from seeing the non-paying parent. Unless the court advises differently and enters an order regarding same, a parent cannot lose visitation rights for failing to make child support payments.
- Child support payments cannot be reduced when the paying parent refuses to work to avoid payment. If the parent won’t get a job or is deliberately underemployed, a Florida court will mandate payments based on what the parent could be earning instead of what he or she is earning.
There are many myths surrounding divorce, child custody, and child support. While the State of Florida does not require either party to a divorce to be represented by an attorney, the issues involving children can be complex, and a parent risks losing a great deal – including a relationship with his or her child – without the advice and experience of a family law attorney.
The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.
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