Divorce and Family Law:


Child Custody:   I handle child custody disputes, enforcement and modification, taking the time to fully understand your needs and concerns.

I also handle post-divorce matters such as the modification of child support, modification of child custody and parenting plans, and modification of alimony and the relocation of children. I can file to enforce settlement agreements, enforce court orders and represent you in contempt of court proceedings.

For experienced and sound legal counsel, call the professionals at The Law Office of Edward J. Chandler, P.A., a Pompano Beach attorney

divorce attorney and family lawyer today!

Telephone (954) 788-1355


Family Law: legal issues

The Chandler Law Firm is hihjly dedicated to providing clients with their desired resolution, no matter what their case entails. For 26 years, attorney Chandlerhas been delivering a personal approach to family law, which can be described as legal guidance and representation in any of the following categories:

  • Alimony & Spousal Support
  • Annulments
  • Child Custody & Visitation
  • Child Support
  • Divorce (Contested & Uncontested)
  • Domestic Violence
  • Father’s Rights
  • Marriage, Civil Unions & Domestic Partnerships
  • Modification of Custody or Support
  • Paternity
  • Prenuptial Agreements
  • Property Division & Distribution


Attorney Chandler is  experienced in handling family law cases  with a goal for settlement and either early mediation , or an aggressive expansion of legal remedies when confronting the other party in mediation or in front of a judge. The defined approach to your case will transfer into the courtroom, and attorney Chandler will agressively fight for you.

Edward J. Chandler, Esq. is sensitive to his client's every need. While listening to each client's individual needs and concerns, we are dedicated to providing excellence in getting you your desired results. With compassion, skill, knowledge, and proficiency, Attorney Edward J. Chandler hopes to provide solutions, not problems. We use our professional and ethical legal counsel to achieve results that are cost-effective.

With the use of other professionals, such as financial advisors, forensic accountants, CPA's, and family and child psychologists, we are more than equipped to handle and help each client in their legal matter.
He represents those fighting for alimony in contested and uncontested  dissolution marriage proceedings and in legal actions for child support,  enforcement, contempt, restraining orders, domestic violence and regarding child custody and parenting plans, and modification of child support and visitation.

TIME SHARING PLANS

The new law requires Parenting Plans for all divorcing couples with children. It starts October 1, 2008. Florida law public policy is to keep both parents in frequent and continuing contact with their children after divorce. Parenting issues are divided into three categories: parental responsibility, time sharing and support. The time sharing section of your parenting plan spells out when the children will be with each parent. Courts have "model schedules" for visitation.

Parenting plan issues:

 Pick up and Drop Off - Which of you is driving? If you use school as the transition point, what happens when school is not in session?
Holidays and Special Occasions - Will these days be treated differently than the  usual time sharing and have a separate schedule? Are school holidays that are not public holidays included in this part? How will both parents receive notice of special school events?
Transfer of Belongings - Will toys, clothes, backpacks and other property of the children transfer between homes (if so, how and when) or will both parents have these items? What happens if a needed item is not transferred?
Right of First Refusal - If the other parent cannot personally attend to the children in that parent's designated time sharing period (due to illness, travel, etc), does the other parent have the right of first refusal? How long a period must it be before the right of first refusal applies - overnight, four hours, 24 hours?
Notice of Whereabouts - When does information have to be provided to the other parent if the children will not be at the usual location? When and how will the other parent be notified? This could include leaving the county, being out-of-county overnight, leaving the state, etc.


Shared Parenting Contact and Guidelines
Determining parent access to children is one of the most difficult and problematic areas of divorce. It often contributes significantly to parent conflict and litigation. Yet, there is a limited amount of empirical research on the most appropriate arrangements for children. There is no single time-sharing arrangement that has been determined to be optimal for all children. Thus caution is important in proposing a specific visitation arrangement.
The circumstances of each family are unique, however, and recognition of their unique circumstances is central to making good parenting choices. Moreover, as will be discussed below, the leading experts in the field agree that “one size fits all” approaches to developing parenting arrangements are inappropriate and may be harmful to some families. It is NOT the purpose of this review to establish a single standard or “best” parenting arrangement. The results of social and behavioral research are necessarily generalizations and should not be automatically applied to individual families. These generalizations inform the choices of individual families and the way legislation is framed. These guidelines offer “customized” recommendations for the numerous special situations that may exist in particular families.
Research does not reveal any particular residential schedule to be most beneficial for children. There are no significant advantages to children of joint physical custody, but also no significant disadvantages to children of joint physical custody or of any other residential schedule. The weight of evidence, however, also does not suggest that, absent parental conflict, high levels of contact between the child and the parent are harmful to children. Parental conflict is a major source of reduced well-being among children of divorce. Research indicates that joint physical custody and frequent contact between the child and the parent have adverse consequences for children in high-conflict situations. While age and developmental needs may be important factors in determining access, they are not the only factors that may be considered. Other factors are also important such as:


• the psychological attachment of the child to the parent
• the manner in which child-rearing tasks have been shared
• the consistency and predictability of the scheduled time-sharing
• the child’s temperament, resilience, and resourcefulness
• the child’s ability to handle change
• the parents’ work and work schedules.

The following suggestions are merely guidelines that reflect that children’s needs vary from birth through adolescence. These guidelines are based on the child’s age and changing developmental needs. They take
 into account attachment, children’s sense of time, the importance of maintaining attachment over time, the need for children to have contact with parents, the needs for children to have relationships with peers,
teams, clubs, and school, etc.
There are also certain assumptions that are made in recommending the following guidelines; that is
• the child has a bond with both parents


Shared Parenting Contact and Guidelines
Determining parent access to children is one of the most difficult and problematic areas of divorce. It often contributes significantly to parent conflict and litigation. Yet, there is a limited amount of empirical research on the most appropriate arrangements for children. There is no single time-sharing arrangement that has been determined to be optimal for all children. Thus caution is important in proposing a specific visitation arrangement. The circumstances of each family are unique, however, and recognition of their unique circumstances is central to making good parenting choices. Moreover, as will be discussed below, the leading experts in the field agree that “one size fits all” approaches to developing parenting arrangements are inappropriate and may be harmful to some families. It is NOT the purpose of this review to establish a single standard or “best” parenting arrangement. The results of social and behavioral research are necessarily generalizations and should not be automatically applied to individual families.These generalizations may usefully inform the choices of individual families and the way legislation is framed. It is beyond the scope of these guidelines to offer “customized” recommendations for the numerous special situations that may exist in particular families.
While age and developmental needs may be important factors in determining access, they are not the only factors that may be considered. Other factors are also important such as:
• the psychological attachment of the child to the parent
• the manner in which child-rearing tasks have been shared
• the consistency and predictability of the scheduled time-sharing
• the child’s temperament, resilience, and resourcefulness
• the parents’ work and work schedules.

The following suggestions are merely guidelines that reflect that children’s needs vary from birth through adolescence. These guidelines are based on the child’s age and changing developmental needs. They take into account attachment, children’s sense of time, the importance of maintaining attachment over time, the need for children to have contact with parents, the needs for children to have relationships  with peers, teams, clubs, and school, etc.

There are also certain assumptions that are made in recommending the following guidelines; that is
• the child has a bond with both parents
    • both parents have adequate capacity to parent
    • both parents have the desire and the time to interact with the child regularly
    • both parents can provide for the child’s physical needs and emotional needs

    
The evidence reviewed here does not reveal any particular residential schedule to be most beneficial for children. Research clearly suggests, however, that parental conflict is a major source of reduced well- being  among children of divorce.

Edward J. Chandler, Esq. is a Pompano Beach attorney divorce attorney and family lawyer and is committed to providing you with top notch legal representation for divorce and family law matters, including issues involving alimony, child custody and support, parenting plans, distribution of assets, restraining orders and domestic violence matters in the State of Florida! We approach every client with a focus on integrity, advocacy, and understanding and formulate your legal strategy. We fight for you!

CALL TODAY FOR  A FREE CONSULTATION! Telephone: (954) 788-1355

Schedule a free consultation with a Pompano Beach familylawyer Edward J. Chandler,Esq. today!

==================================================================== Age Birth to 6 months DEVELOPMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR CONTACT Children between birth and the age of 6 months develop a strong bond with at least one person. This is called attachment. Bowlby (1973, 1982) first proposed attachment theory and Ainsworth (Ainsworth et al, 1978) completed empirical testing of his theory. Attachment provides the framework for relationships and explains why the disruption of the bond between the primary caregiver and the infant can result in problem behavior. Disruption can occur through loss and /or separation from the primary caregiver or even the threat of separation and loss. Infants begin to attach to caregivers at approximately 6 months of age. Attachment develops slowly over the first year and is determined by the quality of the interaction between the adult and the child, not just by who feeds and changes diapers. It includes interest and attention through smiling, reaching, cooing, touching, etc. It is clear that children do not just attach to one person. However, there is controversy over whether children have a tendency to form a single “primary” attachment, regardless of how many other attachments they form. (Warshak, 2000; Solomon, 2005). Visitation schedules must insure that children have the opportunity to establish and maintain such attachments as well as insure that existing attachments are not disrupted or threatened.
Know How Your Child Grows  A. Normal Developmental Stages: Eating, sleeping, and routine are primary needs of children this age. Stability in caregivers and routines, particularly in eating and sleeping, are critical. Predictability, consistency, and stability of help to establish security and reduce tension and anxiety. Attachment begins at this stage. Bowlby (1969) suggested that between birth and two months is the preattachment stage. The infant responds to any adult. However, by six months, the infant will recognize familiar caregivers and be wary of unfamiliar people. Some of the developmental tasks of infancy between birth and six months include: 1. Physical Development a. Infant begins to sit up b.Reaches with both arms c.Can hold objects  2.Cognitive (Mental) Development a.Starts to explore things by taste b.Seeks visual stimulation c.Protests if needs are not met 3. Social Development a.Smiles, laughs b. Knows the difference between parents and strangers c. Gestures to be picked up 4. Emotional Development a. Need to attach b.Need for nurturing, love, affection, and attention CONTACT FOR BIRTH TO SIX MONTHS One of the most important considerations is for attachment with both parents. It is important for visitation to provide opportunities to establish a bond between the child and the parent. Generally, frequency of visitation is given more consideration than duration of visitation. Making up for less frequent visits by increasing the length of time of visits is not recommended for infants (Hodges, 1991). Skafte (1985) recommended daily visits, but if this is impractical, then visits should be spaced no more than two days apart. Overnight visits are not generally recommended (Hodges, 1991; Biringen, et al, 2002).There is research, however, to show that overnight visits with the parent can occur, provided that the parent has been a significant caretaker and a primary attachment figure (Warshak, 2000). Suggested: Daily visits of 1 to 3 hours
WAYS TO MAKE YOUR CHILD’S VISITATION EASIER • Keep sleeping and eating arrangements consistent and stable. • Since children this age develop and change rapidly, communicate frequently with one another about eating habits, elimination, health, medicines, new behaviors, sleep patterns, etc. use of a tablet for written communication and accessible to each parent is often a useful way to provide this information. • Share favorite toys, blankets, etc. • Furnish pictures of one another to have in each home. AGE 6 Months through 18 Months Children at this age continue to establish attachment. They begin to show stranger anxiety and apprehension. Even though an infant may have shown no signs of being upset previously, the child will now cry when the parent leaves. This starts at about 9 months and may continue until about 2 years old. Separation from one of the parents during this period might cause impairment to the attachment process (Horner and Guyer, 1993). Children continue to need familiarity and predictability. Children need love, attention, talk and play. KNOW HOW YOUR CHILD GROWS A. Normal Developmental Stages: Children this age continue to grow rapidly, particularly in their mobility. They crawl, stand, and walk. Although the child will explore the environment and begin to assert himself, the parent must still provide for structure, predictability, and familiarity that will help to build trust and security. Children desire more independence, but continue to need the security of the attachment figure. Negative behaviors may appear between 15 and 18 months. The child may become more demanding, erupt in tantrums, and begin to say “no.” There is an emerging sense of self as well as fear of loss of the attachment. Since anxiety begins, it is especially important to maintain regularity in the visitation and to insure that the visitation does not involve long separations (Ram, Finzi, and Cohen, 2002). Physical Development a. Walking, running, climbing b. Can throw an object c. Can grip a crayon and scribble 2. Cognitive (Mental) Development a. Begins to speak b. Learns by exploring c. Can follow a simple direction 3. Social Development a. Copies and imitates b. Waves goodbye c. Responds to verbal request 4. Emotional Development a. Separation anxiety begins b. Exhibits a temper when frustrated CONTACT BASED ON KNOWING YOUR CHILD AGE: Six months through Eighteen Months Since separation anxiety begins during this period, the issue of visitation is especially important. How often and the length of time of each visit depend, in part, on the prior contact of the child and visiting parent. If the parent has participated in, then visitation can be greater in duration and more frequent. Otherwise, short but frequent visits are suggested. Skafte (1985) recommended that no more than 2 or 3 days pass without the parent visiting. Solomon and George (1999) found that a repeated overnight separation from the primary caretaker was associated with disruption in attachment. Overnight visits, while still controversial at this age, are sometimes recommended, again, dependent on the amount of, involvement, and availability of the visiting parent (Warshak, 2002). Suggested Visits: 1 to 4 hours every other day
WAYS TO MAKE YOUR CHILD’S VISITATION EASIER
• Maintain a routine, especially in eating and sleeping, in each household • Use a communication log, or notes to inform one another of new behaviors, habit changes, • Patience, as well as firm and consistent limits are necessary • Share favorite toys, blankets, stuffed animals, etc. • Provide familiar articles, pictures, etc. for each household • Insure a safe environment and supervise the exploring child • Try to spend some time of a visitation doing a care taking activity in the home of the primary caretaker (such as feeding, bathing, bedtime)
AGE 18 Months to 3 Years Children at this age continue to explore and establish increasing independence and mobility. These are “toddlers” that will start to become individuals and begin to establish some separateness from their parents (Sroufe, 1979). Children continue to require consistency and firmness from parents. They can remember people they have not seen for days, so children can tolerate longer times between visits. KNOW HOW YOUR CHILD GROWS A. Normal Developmental Stages: Toddlers between the ages of 18 months and 3 years significantly improve their communication skills, begin to toilet themselves, eat with use of a spoon and fork, play by themselves, and become somewhat more resistant and self-centered. They may refer to themselves by name, all part of becoming separate from their parents. They are often easier to discipline through humor and distraction. 1. Physical Development a. walks well, goes up and down stairs b. attempts to dress self c. becoming independent in toileting and eating 2. Cognitive (Mental) Development a. Says words, phrases, and simple sentences b. Avoids simple hazards c. Understands simple directions 3. Social Development a. May refer to self by name b. Can play alone 4. Emotional Development a. Self-centered, possessive, often negative b. Enjoys affection c. Often resistant to change I. CONTACT BASED ON KNOWING YOUR CHILD AGE: 18 Months to 3 Years Children this age can handle visitation that is less frequent than for infants. Visits should continue to be consistent and frequent. At 18 months a child can visit for several hours at a time and research supports an overnight visit in the older children in this category Skafte (1985) believed that full weekends were too long for three years olds. Long visitations and travel to distant geographic locations are not recommended (Hodges, 1991). Suggested Visits: One weekend day, including overnight; two weekdays for 3 hours. For example, Saturday, 10 AM to Sunday, 10 AM and Every Monday and Wednesday, 5:00 PM to 7:30 PM.
II. WAYS TO MAKE YOUR CHILD’S VISITATION EASIER • Insure safety in the environment • Make sure that overnights include the bedtime routine similar to that practiced in the primary residential home • If a parent has not had regular visitation because of geographic distance, then visitation should be short, regular visits for part of the day in the custodial parent’s location • Communicate through use of a log to provide feedback to the other parent on changes in habits, new tasks, etc. • Have some of the child’s favorite things available in each home Age 3 to 5 (The Preschool Child) Preschool children enjoy predictability. They like fairness and well-defined and consistent guidelines set by parents. Visitation needs to follow these same tenets.
Know How Your Child Grows AGE: 3 through 5 Years A. Normal Developmental Stages: Preschoolers have large vocabularies and show significant growth in their communication. They can tell simple stories, ask endless questions, and are interested in their environment. They have a more secure and greater sense of personal identity. They move from play by themselves to cooperative play and begin enjoying the company of others. They are beginning to be adventuresome, but need controlled freedom. They are eager to carry out some responsibility and feel pride in their accomplishments. Routine and consistency continue to be very important. 1. Physical Development a. Runs, climbs b. Begins to ride tricycle, similar vehicle c. Begins to write own name 2. Cognitive (Mental) Development a. Communicates well verbally b. Asks questions c. Tells simple stories 3. Social Development a. Seeks peer interaction b. Talkative, versatile c. Cooperative play 4. Emotional Development a. Likes to follow rules b. Enjoys responsibility
CONTACT BASED ON KNOWING YOUR CHILD AGE: Three through Five YEARS Preschoolers are more aware of the differences between parents. Although they can tolerate overnight visits developmentally, parent conflict may interfere significantly with visitation and smooth transitions. Parents need to make greater effort to insure that preschoolers witness appropriate behaviors between parents. Suggested Visits: Every other weekend and one weekday overnight, i. e., Every Thursday overnight and every other weekend, Friday to Sunday, 6PM. Or, Every Thursday overnight and Every other weekend, Friday to Sunday overnight. During the summertime, preschoolers may be ready for a full week visitation. WAYS TO MAKE YOUR CHILD’S VISITATION EASIER • Provide mementos, including photos, from each other’s homes • Become involved in preschool and increase access through activities • Provide a lot of reinforcement and opportunities for approval and recognition • Insure that transitions from one home to another are smooth and without conflict • Make sure that the child calls the other parent daily AGE: Six through Eleven Years SPECIAL DEVELOPMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR CONTACT (Ages Six years to Eleven years) Children between the ages of six and eleven are focused on becoming hard- working and independent. Achievement in school tasks and acceptance from their peers, therefore, is critical. Parents must be certain that visitation schedules are consistent, predictable and organized (Amato 1991).This will allow the child to focus on the very important school and social tasks that are foremost in their life at this stage. Children of this age are developing moral reasoning, and socializing independently for the first time. Attending and becoming involved in school and extra-curricular activities are important, and must be encouraged by both parents during their contact time with the child/ren. Between the ages 6½-8, children will often openly grieve for the departed parent. Children have fantasies that their parents will happily reunite in the not-so-distant future. Children in this developmental stage have an especially difficult time with the concept of the permanence of the divorce. Between the ages of 8 and 11, feeling of anger and a feeling of powerlessness are the main emotional response in this age group. Like the other developmental stages, children at this age experience a grief reaction to the loss of their previously intact family. Research by Lerman (1989) explores the adjustment of latency age children finding that children who believe that they were rejected from the absent parent was a significant predictor of a child’s self-esteem. There is a greater tendency this age children to label a ‘good’ parent and a ‘bad’ parent. At this age children may attempt to take care of a parent at the expense of their own needs. (Wallerstein 1989)
Know How Your Child Grows A.Normal Developmental Stages: Children are in a psychosocial age of industry where they want to please their parents with their efforts. They are developing their ability to think logically, and are beginning to understand the concept of fairness. Moral reasoning is beginning and children are concerned with rules. They have a growing awareness of right and wrong. Independent thinking starts, and becomes more constant along with predictable feelings. Social feelings are developing and children can begin showing empathy and sympathy for others. 1. Physical Development a. Growth is slow and steady. 2. Cognitive (Mental) Development a. Moving toward understanding abstract ideas. Things are often “black or white” - there is very little middle ground. b. Look to adults for approval. c. Like encouragement and suggestions for improvement. d. Need Opportunities to share thoughts and reactions. e. Thinking is concrete, but beginning to think logically 3. Social Development a. Like to join organized groups. b. Beginning to take responsibility for own actions. c. Decision-making skills are being developed. 4. Emotional Development a. Strong need to feel accepted and worthwhile. b. Beginning to build and understand friendship. Know How Your Child Grows SIX to EIGHT YEARS 1. Physical development a. Physical play very lively; sporting skills develop quickly 2. General behavior a. Bathes, dresses, sleeps, and eats well; talks to strangers; takes part in team sports; drawings show some proportion and perspective. 3. Language a. Reads with understanding; learns spelling and grammar; starts to add and subtract two or three digit numbers and multiply and divide single digit numbers. 4. Typical personality a.Self reliant, sociable and outgoing; active; may be critical of others. Know How Your Child Grows NINE to ELEVEN YEARS 1. Physical development a. Skilled with hands and fingers; special skills such as in sport and music become evident. 2. General behavior a. Well behaved; works or plays hard; self-sufficient and may enjoy being alone. 3. Language a. Masters basic techniques of reading, writing, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing; reads stories and writes brief letters to relatives. Page 16 16 4. Typical personality a. Sensible; self motivated; may be shy in social situations; may talk about sex information with friends; interested in body organs and functions; less afraid of dark; not afraid of water. 5.Common normal ‘problems’ a. Worried and anxious; has physical complaints such as stomachaches and headaches when has to do disliked tasks; rebels against authority; sex swearing beginning; perseveres with tasks. After Divorce Needs In terms of divorce, children of this age wish their parents to reunite (90% of seven- year-old children) and may still attempt to reunite their parents. They fear losing both parents and may still blame themselves for the divorce. They often react to the divorce with sadness. It is common for children of this age to have difficulties concentrating in school because they are thinking about the loss and reunification and they may have some academic risk. Children of this age can typically move between two homes with minimal stress. Most children at this time need a home base where they can work on basic academics, do homework consistently and have their friends easily available. They need routines and schedules. Children in grades 1-3 are often more able to interact with a same-sex parent around hobbies, interests and feelings than younger children who depend on basic care. For primary interference with peer relationships. To do otherwise may cause your child’s resentment and rejection. Divorce at this age group can cause confusion and some feelings of blame. Children’s initial concern is who will be there for them. They are concerned about basic needs such as where they will stay. They need a feeling of security at home in order to deal with issues at school or with friends. (Bauserman 2002)
Divorce brings many challenges to children of this age. Younger school-age children tend to feel the loss of the family as a unit and may experience sadness and crying. Older children in this age group may be more likely to experience anger and choose one parent over the other as a way to hold on to their self- esteem and relationships. Your child may feel directly responsible for your divorce, especially if she is put in the middle of your conflict. Some children will show more severe symptoms, including tantrums, regression, sleep problems, behavioral and academic problems in school, withdrawal or aggression with peers, and depression. (Buchman, Maccoby and Dornbusch 1996) Some of these children do not want to grow up, and instead remain emotionally immature. Children in this age group believe in fairness and want to please their parents. They may feel overwhelmed by your conflicts and try to fix them, yet they cannot. If one of the parents is depressed, your child may try to take care of that parent’s emotional problems. • Exchanges should minimize your child’s exposure to conflict. School or other neutral places are excellent transition places between Mom’s house and Dad’s house. • You must find ways to keep your children out of the middle of your conflicts. Do not have your child deliver messages to the other parent, or ask your child to tell you what the other parent is doing. Communication needs to be between the parents only, even if this requires help from a neutral professional. • To the extent you can, there should be a plan for co-parenting. If your conflict is more extreme, a pattern of parallel parenting and avoidance of each other is best
CONTACT BASED ON KNOWING YOUR CHILD AGE: SIX through Eleven YEARS 1. Every Other Weekend (Friday 6:00 p.m. to Sunday 6:00 p.m.) 4/28 overnights In a review of a decade of research Kelley (2000) cites the benefit of being close to each parent. This option establishes 12 days separation from the second parent. Divorce research indicates that this is often too long for many children, and may diminish the second parent’s importance to the children – with fewer opportunities for involvement in their day-to-day, school and homework activities. (Shafke,1985) In addition, this option provides little relief to the first parent from children responsibilities. This option may be preferred, however, given the parents’ history of involvement, available time for parenting, present parenting resources or, as a transitional approach to timesharing. Every Other Weekend plus Midweek Visit (Friday 6:00 p.m. to Sunday 6:00 p.m., with every Wednesday 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.) 4/28 overnights Every Other Week (Friday 6:00 p.m. to following Friday 8:00 a.m.) 14/28 overnights This parenting plan option creates seven days separation from the other parent, often quite difficult for children younger than six or seven years of age. It eliminates the opportunity for face-to-face parental conflict by minimizing transitions, and allows both parents and mature children to “settle” into a routine. The children’s switching residences can, of course, complicate management of scheduled lessons, activity commitments and daycare arrangements. Note: changing households on Friday after school often works better than on the traditional Monday after school approach (allowing for a “winding-down” at the time of transition, rather than requiring “gearing-up” at that time). Serious reservation of this seven-day option must be given in cases involving parental alienation. Summer Vacations When parents live in separate communities, it can be difficult to plan a schedule. If you have a long- distance relationship, your child will need to be in one home during the school year, and visit the other parent during non-school time. Consider the travel time and your child’s age and activities when you develop your schedule. If you are the “summer parent,” try and spend some time with your child every three months. If your child is young, you might need to do most of the traveling. Once your child is old enough to travel alone, it is still important to visit the child at least once or twice a year. Use three-day weekends for monthly contact during the school year if you live close enough, or longer holiday breaks such as Thanksgiving or Easter if you live farther away. If you are the “school year parent” and live a long distance from the other parent, try and enroll your child in a year-round school. This allows for more frequent travel to be with the other parent, yet won’t take the child away for as long as the traditional summer break. Consider the day-to-day activities in both communities, since working parents need daycare or planned activities when children come to visit. Your child is likely to do well if your child has all but one week of each break with the long-distance parent. That leaves the child some time to be with friends in the child’s home community and time for vacation trips with each parent. If your child is in a typical school-year/summer-vacation schedule, your child is likely to have two weeks of vacation at Christmas, another week or two during the spring or near Easter, and about twelve weeks off in the summer. If the child is under age eight, consider having an equal split of the Christmas break, and most spring breaks with the long-distance parent. Try breaking up the summer into three segments: the first and third with the long-distance parent and the middle one with the home parent. This may prevent the child from feeling homesick during the child’s trips. If the child is older and used to being away from home, the child might do well spending most of the summer with the long-distance parent, assuming the child enjoys it there and has a good relationship with that parent. Both of you need to consider the child’s interests, summer camp desires, and vacation needs as you develop your plan. (Lye1999)
WAYS TO MAKE YOUR CHILD’S VISITATION EASIER
Children of this developmental stage benefit from parents who: Make sure your child knows which parent will be picking them up and taking them home. If both parents will be attending an activity, allow the child to visit with both parents during that event. Develop a system where both parents are informed of school conferences, and extra-curricular activities. 1. Establish a homework routine, with assistance as necessary. Be sure to pack all books, school projects, uniforms and extra-curricular sports gear. Establish with the other parent the procedure for when children leave any of the abovementioned at the other parent’s home. Decide who will be responsible for getting this to the child. 2. Establish a consistent homework time, bedtime, and mealtime at both homes. Attempt to provide similar diet at both homes. Television, computer, and playtime should be consistent. Agree on similar punishments for poor academic progress and unacceptable behavior. 3. Allow the children to have telephone access to the other parent when they desire. Be considerate of when you call the children, as not to interrupt bedtime or wake-up routines. If needed establish a schedule for the other parent to call. AGE: 11 through 18 Years SPECIAL DEVELOPMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR CONTACT
Children between the ages of 11 and 18 usually seek more independence as they get older and prefer to do more things with less adult involvement. This pattern becomes more obvious as the children age. As children move through this stage, a good balance of supervision and flexibility is essential. Parents must be sure that visitation schedules are flexible and consider the natural tendency of the child toward increased independence from both parents. As children become more active in school and social activities, visitation likely will need to be reviewed and even restructured from time to time.
Know How Your Child Grows A. Normal Developmental Stages: Children in this age range are called “adolescents,” with 3 different stages as described below. Generally, adolescents move through the following tasks during this period: Establish a sense of autonomy (self-sufficiency) and personal identity; Achieve emotional independence from parents and other adults; and Begin process of individuation (separateness) from immediate and even extended family. 1. Physical Development a. If puberty has not occurred yet, it likely will occur during this period, bringing rapid changes and “swings” in the child’s hormones and emotions, together with common physical changes of puberty. b. As physical development proceeds, especially sex-related physical changes, the child will likely want more privacy. Boundaries regarding physical contact by parents may occur. For example, the parent’s hug that once was natural and welcomed by the child may now be met with a very different response, including withdrawal and even some rejection. 2. Cognitive (Mental) Development a. Concrete initially, more capacity for abstract thinking develops throughout adolescence b. Greater critical thinking that may result in frequent comparisons and evaluation of others’ behavior, appearance and preferences (including parents) with child’s own preferences. c. Brain development continues; for much of this period, the portion of brain that supports rational judgement, organization, emotional understanding and decision-making is not fully developed. 3. Social Development a. Peer relationships take on a much greater importance. b. Increasing independence from family is sought and demanded. c. Though focused on independence, still concerned with meeting parents’ expectations and need assistance in coping with age-related demands. d. Increased interest in sexual matters and sexual identity. 4. Emotional Development a. Increased ability for introspection (self-examination and understanding). b. Identity formation occurs as the child explores various alternatives and makes choices that affect self-concept. Identity formation may include sexual, ethnic and career aspects. For some adolescents, this can be a time of role or identity confusion. c. Puberty and incomplete brain development may result in significant emotional volatility (“moodiness”) and, in some cases; this moodiness may be or seem extreme. 11 TO 13 YEARS (EARLY ADOLESCENCE) 1. Physical development: Sexual characteristics of puberty occur or continue to develop; boys typically have higher physical self-concept (recognition of physical ability) than girls. 2. General behavior: Behavior largely decided by or compared to friends and schoolmates; social interaction outside of family more important; as part of individuation, children will more often challenge parents’ values and authority. Girls tend to feel better about themselves in social situations than do boys. Same-sex peer groups are more important than opposite sex. 3. Language: Reads with greater understanding; may use language and abstract thinking to write about and report on emotional experiences. 4. Typical personality: Peer relationships and acceptance become increasingly important; complaints about parental restrictions and supervision increase; mood swings common; may vary between need for and rejection of parental affection and expectations. 5. Common or “normal” problems: forgetfulness; minor rebellion against parental rules and restrictions; lack of organization regarding school and home spaces (messy room, locker and/or desk)
14 to 16 YEARS (MIDDLE ADOLESCENCE) 1. Physical development: Puberty completed or nearly completed. 2. General behavior: Increased romantic and/or sexual feelings toward others; Mixed-sex group activities increase; Self-centered; undecided at times regarding issues of separation and independence. Wants greater role in decision-making on issues affecting them. 3. Language: Increased use of language to report on emotional experiences and complaints. Prefer to communicate with peers over parents; may increase use of computers and other technology to maintain regular communication with peers. 4. Typical personality: Increasing efforts to achieve independence from parental restrictions and rules; attempts to bargain regarding attendance at social activities; critical thinking patterns may result in frequent judgments and “black and white” evaluations of issues. Page 21 21 5. Common normal ‘problems’: May begin to associate greater physical maturity with adulthood, leading to increased risk for harmful or premature behaviors; parent-child power struggles, especially around issues such as dating, curfews, household chores and driving privileges. Experimenting with drug and alcohol use and/or sexual behaviors; incomplete understanding of impact of potentially unsafe behaviors (sex, drugs, alcohol,). 17 to 18 YEARS (LATE ADOLESCENCE) [Note: actually through Age 20] 1. General behavior: Increased romantic and/or sexual feelings toward others; Individual relationships with others begin to become more important than peer groups; frequently challenge parental authority and restrictions. 2. Typical personality: Self-centered idealism; right and wrong thinking, begins to become more other-oriented. Mood swings of puberty and early post-puberty may stabilize somewhat. 3. Common normal ‘problems’: School (including college planning) and social activities may compete, causing stress; experimenting with drug and alcohol use and/or sexual behaviors; incomplete understanding of impact of potentially unsafe behaviors (sex, drugs, alcohol, reckless driving). After Divorce Needs The needs of adolescents after divorce depend, in part, on whether divorce occurs during this stage or occurs earlier in their development. If the divorce occurs at this stage of development, the need for some structure, consistency and reassurance of each parent’s involvement is more important. Anger and blame may be common as adolescents become more judgemental. However, as children move into and through adolescence, they may become more focused on the “fairness” of a plan for parental contact and they will likely consider it “fair” to include them to some extent in plans that are made for where they will spend their time. Whether or not parents are married or divorced, adolescence is a time of increasing importance of peer relationships, social activities and independence, a fact that must be considered in any after divorce family. Parents must be ready to: support their teen’s attempts to achieve developmental tasks; accept the teen’s beliefs, feelings and attitudes without being judgemental; set appropriate limits on behavior but not on those beliefs, feelings and attitudes; foster empathy with the teen by remembering (not necessarily reciting) your own feelings and behaviors as a teen; allow their teen to be different than the parent is or was at that age or now; acknowledge and support the teen’s need for independence and autonomy.
CONTACT BASED ON KNOWING YOUR CHILD FOR ALL ADOLESCENTS: Perhaps more than any other age range, and particularly in later adolescence, the flexibility recommended in the literature makes a strict schedule difficult and even harmful to the adolescent’s development, in some cases. Longer vacations or contact periods, more creative time-sharing alternatives, and even equal time-sharing may be options, depending on the particular needs of a child and the relationship established before the divorce. All contact arrangements should be negotiated in good faith, keeping in mind your child and the special developmental tasks of adolescents. The suggestions that follow, as mentioned in the introduction, cannot be viewed as appropriate for each situation and each child. 11 TO 13 YEARS (EARLY ADOLESCENCE) Every Other Weekend (Friday 6:00 p.m. to Sunday 6:00 p.m.) Many adolescents prefer one primary home (in a large part to avoid confusion for their friends), and only wish to spend weekends or evenings with the other parent. Much of this will depend on the history of the relationship and the availability of the parent to meet their needs. Every Other Weekend/only one weekend overnight (Friday after school to Saturday 6:00 p.m.) or (Saturday noon to Sunday 6:00 p.m.) Adolescent children often have multiple projects and school assignments requiring their effort, as well as a number of options for peer-group contact on weekends. Parents may consider structuring weekend overnight visitation on an evening when it is more likely that the child will not have to decline social invitations. Phone calls should be encouraged and permitted at all reasonable times. Some contact should occur each week or, at a minimum, every other week. If the child is not used to having individual and continued contact with the nonresidential parent, consider allowing a friend to join the child on some occasions. Other contact: If at all possible, offer your child some input into the planned summer vacation contact schedule. Offering a choice between two equally appropriate options can give a child a feeling of some control over his or her time, meeting their need for greater independence. If an extended summer stay with the non-residential parent is likely, that parent should make efforts in advance to locate social and recreational outlets for the child. During extended time away from either parent, phone calls and email exchanged with that parent may be helpful. This communication should not focus on negative messages about either parent. School breaks of one week or more should be structured in a way that takes into account the needs of the child noted above. 14 TO 18 YEARS (MIDDLE AND LATE ADOLESCENCE) Weekly contact: Contact should occur each week. Contact should be structured with some consideration of child’s school and social activities. During earlier stages, consistency and predictability are very important; at this age, some flexibility by each parent becomes more important. Older adolescent children often have multiple projects and school assignments requiring their effort, as well as a number of options for peer-group contact on weekends. Parents may consider structuring weekly contact on a day when it is more likely that the child will not repeatedly have to decline social invitations. Overnight stays may become increasingly uncomfortable for older adolescents, especially older adolescent girls staying with fathers with whom they have not had open communication and interaction prior to or during the divorce. For this reason, shorter periods of contact should be considered as an alternative. To avoid frustration, it is helpful for the child and both parents to keep a calendar that outlines visitation as far in advance as possible and be prepared for reasonable changes to be requested by the child. If child requests additional contact with non-residential parent, contact should be permitted. Phone calls and appropriate emails, text messages, and other forms of communication should be encouraged and permitted at all reasonable times. Due to reported and researched risks associated with teenagers who drive without adult supervision, transportation to and from the non-residential parent’s home should be coordinated and completed by parents whenever possible, whether or not your child has a respectful of each other as the transfer occurs. If the child is not used to having individual and continued contact with the parent, consider allowing a same-sex friend to join the child on some occasions. Other contact: If at all possible, offer your child some input into the planned summer vacation contact schedule. Offering a choice between two equally appropriate options can give a child a feeling of some control over his or her time, meeting the need for greater independence. Some children as young as age 14 may view summer as a time to earn extra spending money through part-time work. Some consideration should be made for this possibility. School breaks of one week or more should be structured in a way that takes into account the child’s increasing movement toward independence. While you still are the child’s parent and have a valuable relationship with your child, the real fact is that most children at this age become less and less interested in having long discussions and extended contact with their parents. Particularly as a child moves into late adolescence, parents may find the child is increasingly occupied with peer and school activities, leaving only occasional time available to spend with either parent, regardless of their designation as the residential or parent.Compensate for changes in physical contact by liberal use of phone calls, messages that do not require a response but offer the child encouragement, limited text messages (if parent views a cell phone as appropriate for his or her child), e-mails, greeting cards, notes and letters. Interventions for Children of Divorce: Custody, Access, and Psychotherapy, 2nd Edition Chapter: Visitation/Parent Access: Patterns and Problems. © 1991 William F. Hodges WAYS TO MAKE YOUR CHILD’S CONTACT WITH NON- RESIDENTIAL PARENT EASIER Children in adolescence benefit from parents who both: Commit to be and are flexible about visitation and understand their child’s need for greater time with peers and social activities. Though a regular contact schedule appears to encourage more frequent non- custodial parent contact, adolescents report a very strong preference for flexible, unrestricted access. Offer and accept a greater role by children in determining some details of contact with the secondary residential parent, while continuing to encourage a relationship with each parent as much as possible. Work diligently to be cordial to one another and minimize conflict. Do not use adolescents as messengers for information or couriers for documents and records. Parents should work to create a co-parenting relationship that includes respectful discussion and cooperation as it relates to their roles as parents. Plan for activities that offer some social stimulation to the child; adolescents frequently report being “bored” when their time with the non-custodial parent consists only of “watching TV” or “talking.” PARENTING TIME SCHEDULE 2.1 Weekday and Weekend Schedule. For examples of possible parenting time schedules, see the Shared Parenting Contact & Access Guidelines. A. The child(ren) shall spend time with on the following days and times: (name of parent) WEEKENDS: { } every { } every other { } other (specify from to WEEKDAYS: Specify days from to OTHER:(specify) B. The child(ren) shall spend time with : (name of other parent) (Choose one) { } At all times not specified above, or { } On the following days and times: WEEKENDS: { } every { } every other { } other (specify) from to WEEKDAYS: Specify days from to OTHER:(specify) C. Check box if there is a different parenting time schedule for any child. Complete a separate Attachment for each child for whom there is a different parenting time schedule. Label it Attachment 2.1(C). You may use the same format as above. { } There is a different parenting time schedule for the following child(ren) in Attachment 2.1(C): , ,and (name of child) (name of child) (name of child) 2.2 Summer Schedule. (Choose one) { } The summer schedule will remain the same as during the school year. { } The summer schedule will remain the same as during the school year, except for the following vacation times: A. The child(ren) shall spend time with on the following times: (name of parent) WEEKENDS: { } every { } every other { } other (specify): from to WEEKDAYS: Specify days from to OTHER: (Specify) B. The child(ren) shall spend time with : (name of parent) (Choose one) { } At all times not specified above, or { } On the following days and times: WEEKENDS: { } every { } every other { } other (specify) from to WEEKDAYS: Specify days from to OTHER: (specify) 2.3 Holiday Schedule. The following holiday schedule will take priority over the regular weekday, weekend, and summer schedules described above. Fill in the blanks below with the parent’s name to indicate where the child(ren) will be for the holidays. Provide beginning and ending times. If a holiday is not specified as even, odd, or every year with one parent, then the child(ren) will remain with the parent they are normally scheduled to be with. Holidays Even Years Odd Years Every Year Beg/Ending Times Mother’s Day Father’s Day Thanksgiving Christmas Eve Christmas Day Easter Memorial Day Weekend Fourth of July Labor Day Weekend Other: This holiday schedule may affect your regular Parenting Time Schedule. You may wish to specify one or more of the following options: { } When parents are using an alternating weekend plan and the holiday schedule would result in one parent having the child(ren) for three weekends in a row, the alternating weekend pattern will restart so neither parent will go without having the child(ren) for more than two weekends in a row. { } If a parent has our child(ren) on a weekend with an unspecified holiday or non-school day attached, they shall have our child(ren) for the holiday or non-school day. { } Other: 2.4 Winter Break. { } Our child(ren) will spend half of Winter Break with each parent. { } Other: Details for sharing time with our child(ren) during Winter Break (including New Year’s Day) are: 2.5 Spring Break. (The weekday days of school Spring Break). { } Our child(ren) will alternate spending spring break with each parent, spending it with in even years and with (parent name) (parent name) in odd years. { } Our child(ren) will be in the care of each parent according to the schedule described in Section 2.1 above. { } Our child(ren) will spend part of spring break with each parent (provide details): 2.6 Child(ren)’s Birthdays. { } Our child(ren)’s birthdays will be planned so that both parents may participate in the birthday celebration. { } Our child(ren) will be in the care of each parent according to the schedule described in Section 2.1 to 2.6 above. { } Other: 2.7 Temporary Changes to the Schedule. Any schedule for sharing time with our child(ren) may be changed as long as both parents agree to the changes ahead of time: { } in writing; { } orally (choose one) Activities scheduled that will affect the other parent’s time must be coordinated with the other parent. Makeup and Missed Parenting time: Only substantial medical reasons will be considered sufficient for postponement of parenting time. If a child is ill and unable to spend time with a parent, a makeup parenting time will be scheduled. If a parent fails to have the child(ren) during their scheduled parenting time for any other reason, there will be no makeup of parenting time unless the parents agree otherwise: { } in writing { } orally (choose one) 2.8 Permanent Changes to the Schedule. We understand that, once the judge signs the final judgment in our case and approves this Parenting Plan, any changes that we do not agree on can be made only by applying to the court for a modification. One parent cannot change a court-ordered Parenting Plan on their own. Before applying to the court, we understand that we can agree to try to resolve our dispute through mediation or other means (See Section 10). 2.9 Alternate Care. (See Instructions) { } We choose not to specify ground rules for alternate care. { } Alternate care for our child(ren) will be handled as follows: 2.10 Primary & Secondary Residence. { } Shared Parental Responsibility shall be considered the primary residential/ custodial parent. shall be considered the secondary residential/custodial parent. { } Shared Parent responsibility with neither parent being the primary/custodial residential parent. { } Rotating custody. The parents are co-primary residential/custodial parents. { } Sole Parental Responsibility. shall be considered the sole custodial parent. 3. DECISION MAKING: 3.1 Day-to-Day Decisions. Each parent will make day-to-day decisions regarding the care and control of our child(ren) during the time they are caring for our child(ren). This includes any emergency decisions affecting the health or safety of our child(ren). 3.2 Major Decisions (Shared or Sole Parental Responsibility) . Major decisions include, but are not limited to, decisions about our child(ren)’s education, non- emergency healthcare and religious training. Shared Parental Responsibility - Choose One : { } Both parents will share in the responsibility for making major decisions about our child(ren). or { }Shared Parental Responsibility with the following Parent having ultimate decision making authority on designated major decisions about our child(ren). Issues (e.g.: Education, Health, Extra Curricular activities, Religion) Decision Maker The above will be implemented if the parties do not agree otherwise. If a parent is designated with sole parental authority then that parent will have the option to consult with the other parent prior to making major decisions. 4. INFORMATION SHARING. Unless there is a court order stating otherwise: Both parents have equal rights to inspect and receive the child(ren)’s school records, and both parents are encouraged to consult with school staff concerning the child(ren)’s welfare and education. Both parents are encouraged to participate in and attend the child(ren)’s school events. Both parents have equal rights to inspect and receive governmental agency and law enforcement records concerning the child(ren). Both parents have equal rights to consult with any person who may provide care or treatment for the child(ren) and to inspect and receive the child(ren)’s medical, dental and psychological records. Each parent has a continuing responsibility to provide a residential, mailing, or contact address and contact telephone number to the other parent. Each parent has a continuing responsibility to immediately notify the other parent of any emergency circumstances or substantial changes in the health of the child, including the child’s medical needs. 5. FUTURE MOVES BY A PARENT. Relocation: { } The primary residential parent shall not permanently relocate the minor child(ren) from the State of Florida without the written consent of the other parent or an order of the court. { } Parents who have a rotating custodial arrangement (50/50 timesharing) agree that neither parent shall relocate to any residence more than ten (10) miles from the other parents home. __________________________________________________________________ 6. PARENT-CHILD COMMUNICATION { } Both parents and child(ren) shall have the right to communicate by telephone, in writing or by emailing between _____a.m./p.m. and _____a.m./p.m. without interference or monitoring by the other parent. { } Procedures for telephone, written, or email access (describe ground rules for parent-child communication). 7. EXCHANGE OF OUR CHILD(REN) Both parents shall have the child(ren) ready on time with sufficient clothing packed and ready at the agreed-upon time of exchange. All clothing that accompanied our child(ren) shall be returned as follows: While both parents continue to reside in the same locale, both parents shall share equally in the responsibility of exchanging our child(ren) from one parent to the other. { } Other: (provide details for the exchange of the child(ren)): 8. MUTUAL RESPECT Parents will not say things or knowingly allow others to say things in the presence of our child(ren) that would take away our child(ren)’s love and respect for the other parent. 9. OTHER TERMS Add any other items regarding the child(ren) you would like to include in your Parenting Plan. Use additional sheets if necessary. { } Additional sheets attached 10. DISPUTE RESOLUTION We will first attempt to cooperatively resolve any disputes that may arise over the terms of this Parenting Plan. If that attempt fails (choose one): { } We will use mediation or other dispute resolution methods before filing a court action. { } Mediation or other dispute resolution methods will not be required before filing a court action. 11. SIGNATURES Your signature below indicates that you have read and agree with what has been decided and written in this document. Petitioner: Respondent Signature Date Signature Date DEVELOPMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR CONTACT Children between birth and the age of 6 months develop a strong bond with at least one person. This is called attachment. Bowlby (1973, 1982) first proposed attachment theory and Ainsworth (Ainsworth et al, 1978) completed empirical testing of his theory. Attachment provides the framework for relationships and explains why the disruption of the bond between the primary caregiver and the infant can result in problem behavior. Disruption can occur through loss and /or separation from the primary caregiver or even the threat of separation and loss. Infants begin to attach to caregivers at approximately 6 months of age. Attachment develops slowly over the first year and is determined by the quality of the interaction between the adult and the child, not just by who feeds and changes diapers. It includes interest and attention through smiling, reaching, cooing, touching, etc. It is clear that children do not just attach to one person. However, there is controversy over whether children have a tendency to form a single “primary” attachment, regardless of how many other attachments they form. (Warshak, 2000; Solomon, 2005). Visitation schedules must insure that children have the opportunity to establish and maintain such attachments as well as insure that existing attachments are not disrupted or threatened. Know How Your Child Grows A. Normal Developmental Stages: Eating, sleeping, and routine are primary needs of children this age. Stability in caregivers and routines, particularly in eating and sleeping, are critical. Predictability, consistency, and stability of help to establish security and reduce tension and anxiety. Attachment begins at this stage. Bowlby (1969) suggested that between birth and two months is the preattachment stage. The infant responds to any adult. However, by six months, the infant will recognize familiar caregivers and be wary of unfamiliar people. Some of the developmental tasks of infancy between birth and six months include: 1. Physical Development a. Infant begins to sit up b. Reaches with both arms c. Can hold objects 2. Cognitive (Mental) Development a. Starts to explore things by taste b. Seeks visual stimulation c. Protests if needs are not met Page 9 9 3. Social Development a. Smiles, laughs b. Knows the difference between parents and strangers c. Gestures to be picked up 4. E motional Development a. Need to attach b. Need for nurturing, love, affection, and attention CONTACT FOR BIRTH TO SIX MONTHS One of the most important considerations is for attachment with both parents. It is important for visitation to provide opportunities to establish a bond between the child and the parent. Generally, frequency of visitation is given more consideration than duration of visitation. Making up for less frequent visits by increasing the length of time of visits is not recommended for infants (Hodges, 1991). Skafte (1985) recommended daily visits, but if this is impractical, then visits should be spaced no more than two days apart. Overnight visits are not generally recommended (Hodges, 1991; Biringen, et al, 2002). There is research, however, to show that overnight visits with the parent can occur, provided that the parent has been a significant caretaker and a primary attachment figure (Warshak, 2000). Suggested: Daily visits of 1 to 3 hours WAYS TO MAKE YOUR CHILD’S VISITATION EASIER • Keep sleeping and eating arrangements consistent and stable. • Since children this age develop and change rapidly, communicate frequently with one another about eating habits, elimination, health, medicines, new behaviors, sleep patterns, etc. Use of a tablet for written communication and accessible to each parent is often a useful way to provide this information. • Share favorite toys, blankets, etc. • Furnish pictures of one another to have in each home. AGE 6 Months through 18 Months Children at this age continue to establish attachment. They begin to show stranger anxiety and apprehension. Even though an infant may have shown no signs of being upset previously, the child will now cry when the parent leaves. This starts at about 9 months and may continue until about 2 years old. Separation from one of the parents during this period might cause impairment to the attachment process (Horner and Guyer, 1993). Children continue to need familiarity and predictability. Children need love, attention, talk and play. KNOW HOW YOUR CHILD GROWS A. Normal Developmental Stages: Children this age continue to grow rapidly, particularly in their mobility. They crawl, stand, and walk. Although the child will explore the environment and begin to assert himself, the parent must still provide for structure, predictability, and familiarity that will help to build trust and security. Children desire more independence, but continue to need the security of the attachment figure. Negative behaviors may appear between 15 and 18 months. The child may become more demanding, erupt in tantrums, and begin to say “no.” There is an emerging sense of self as well as fear of loss of the attachment. Since anxiety begins, it is especially important to maintain regularity in the visitation and to insure that the visitation does not involve long separations (Ram, Finzi, and Cohen, 2002). 1. Physical Development a. Walking, running, climbing b. Can throw an object c. Can grip a crayon and scribble 2. Cognitive (Mental) Development a. Begins to speak b. Learns by exploring c. Can follow a simple direction 3. Social Development a. Copies and imitates b. Waves goodbye c. Responds to verbal request 4. Emotional Development a. Separation anxiety begins b. Exhibits a temper when frustrated CONTACT BASED ON KNOWING YOUR CHILD AGE: Six months through Eighteen Months Since separation anxiety begins during this period, the issue of visitation is especially important. How often and the length of time of each visit depend, in part, on the prior contact of the child and visiting parent. If the parent has participated in, then visitation can be greater in duration and more frequent. Otherwise, short but frequent visits are suggested. Skafte (1985) recommended that no more than 2 or 3 days pass without the parent visiting. Solomon and George (1999) found that a repeated overnight separation from the primary caretaker was associated with disruption in attachment. Overnight visits, while still controversial at this age, are sometimes recommended, again, dependent on the amount of, involvement, and availability of the visiting parent (Warshak, 2002). Suggested Visits: 1 to 4 hours every other day WAYS TO MAKE YOUR CHILD’S VISITATION EASIER • Maintain a routine, especially in eating and sleeping, in each household • Use a communication log, or notes to inform one another of new behaviors, habit changes, • Patience, as well as firm and consistent limits are necessary • Share favorite toys, blankets, stuffed animals, etc. • Provide familiar articles, pictures, etc. for each household • Insure a safe environment and supervise the exploring child • Try to spend some time of a visitation doing a care taking activity in the home of the primary caretaker (such as feeding, bathing, bedtime) AGE 18 Months to 3 Years Children at this age continue to explore and establish increasing independence and mobility. These are “toddlers” that will start to become individuals and begin to establish some separateness from their parents (Sroufe, 1979). Children continue to require consistency and firmness from parents. They can remember people they have not seen for days, so children can tolerate longer times between visits. KNOW HOW YOUR CHILD GROWS A. Normal Developmental Stages: Toddlers between the ages of 18 months and 3 years significantly improve their communication skills, begin to toilet themselves, eat with use of a spoon and fork, play by themselves, and become somewhat more resistant and self-centered. They may refer to themselves by name, all part of becoming separate from their parents. They are often easier to discipline through humor and distraction. 1. Physical Development a. walks well, goes up and down stairs b. attempts to dress self c. becoming independent in toileting and eating 2. Cognitive (Mental) Development a. Says words, phrases, and simple sentences b. Avoids simple hazards c. Understands simple directions 3. Social Development a. May refer to self by name b. Can play alone 4. Emotional Development a. Self-centered, possessive, often negative b. Enjoys affection c. Often resistant to change I. CONTACT BASED ON KNOWING YOUR CHILD AGE: 18 Months to 3 Years Children this age can handle visitation that is less frequent than for infants. Visits should continue to be consistent and frequent. At 18 months a child can visit for several hours at a time and research supports an overnight visit in the older children in this category Warshak (2000). Skafte (1985) believed that full weekends were too long for three years olds.
Long visitations and travel to distant geographic locations are not recommended (Hodges, 1991). Suggested Visits: One weekend day, including overnight; two weekdays for 3 hours. For example, Saturday, 10 AM to Sunday, 10 AM and Every Monday and Wednesday, 5:00 PM to 7:30 PM. II. WAYS TO MAKE YOUR CHILD’S VISITATION EASIER • Insure safety in the environment • Make sure that overnights include the bedtime routine similar to that practiced in the primary residential home • If a parent has not had regular visitation because of geographic distance, then visitation should be short, regular visits for part of the day in the custodial parent’s location • Communicate through use of a log to provide feedback to the other parent on changes in habits, new tasks, etc. • Have some of the child’s favorite things available in each home Age 3 to 5 (The Preschool Child) Preschool children enjoy predictability. They like fairness and well-defined and consistent guidelines set by parents. Visitation needs to follow these same tenets. Know How Your Child Grows AGE: 3 through 5 Years A. Normal Developmental Stages: Preschoolers have large vocabularies and show significant growth in their communication. They can tell simple stories, ask endless questions, and are interested in their environment. They have a more secure and greater sense of personal identity. They move from play by themselves to cooperative play and begin enjoying the company of others. They are beginning to be adventuresome, but need controlled freedom. They are eager to carry out some responsibility and feel pride in their accomplishments. Routine and consistency continue to be very important. 1. Physical Development a. Runs, climbs b. Begins to ride tricycle, similar vehicle c. Begins to write own name 2. Cognitive (Mental) Development a. Communicates well verbally b. Asks questions c. Tells simple stories 3. Social Development a. Seeks peer interaction b. Talkative, versatile c. Cooperative play 4. Emotional Development a. Likes to follow rules b. Enjoys responsibility CONTACT BASED ON KNOWING YOUR CHILD AGE: Three through Five YEARS Preschoolers are more aware of the differences between parents. Although they can tolerate overnight visits developmentally, parent conflict may interfere significantly with visitation and smooth transitions. Parents need to make greater effort to insure that preschoolers witness appropriate behaviors between parents. Suggested Visits: Every other weekend and one weekday overnight, i. e., Every Thursday overnight and every other weekend, Friday to Sunday, 6PM. Or, Every Thursday overnight and Every other weekend, Friday to Sunday overnight. During the summertime, preschoolers may be ready for a full week visitation. WAYS TO MAKE YOUR CHILD’S VISITATION EASIER • Provide mementos, including photos, from each other’s homes • Become involved in preschool and increase access through activities • Provide a lot of reinforcement and opportunities for approval and recognition • Insure that transitions from one home to another are smooth and without conflict • Make sure that the child calls the other parent daily AGE: Six through Eleven Years SPECIAL DEVELOPMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR CONTACT (Ages Six years to Eleven years) Children between the ages of six and eleven are focused on becoming hard- working and independent. Achievement in school tasks and acceptance from their peers, therefore, is critical. Parents must be certain that visitation schedules are consistent, predictable and organized (Amato 1991). This will allow the child to focus on the very important school and social tasks that are foremost in their life at this stage. Children of this age are developing moral reasoning, and socializing independently for the first time. Attending and becoming involved in school and extra-curricular activities are important, and must be encouraged by both parents during their contact time with the child/ren. Between the ages 6½-8, children will often openly grieve for the departed parent. Children have fantasies that their parents will happily reunite in the not-so-distant future. Children in this developmental stage have an especially difficult time with the concept of the permanence of the divorce. Between the ages of 8 and 11, feeling of anger and a feeling of powerlessness are the main emotional response in this age group. Like the other developmental stages, children at this age experience a grief reaction to the loss of their previously intact family. Research by Lerman (1989) explores the adjustment of latency age children finding that children who believe that they were rejected from the absent parent was a significant predictor of a child’s self-esteem. There is a greater tendency this age children to label a ‘good’ parent and a ‘bad’ parent. At this age children may attempt to take care of a parent at the expense of their own needs. (Wallerstein 1989) Know How Your Child Grows A. Normal Developmental Stages: Children are in a psychosocial age of industry where they want to please their parents with their efforts. They are developing their ability to think logically, and are beginning to understand the concept of fairness. Moral reasoning is beginning and children are concerned with rules. They have a growing awareness of right and wrong. Independent thinking starts, and becomes more constant along with predictable feelings. Social feelings are developing and children can begin showing empathy and sympathy for others. 1. Physical Development a. Growth is slow and steady. 2. Cognitive (Mental) Development a. Moving toward understanding abstract ideas. Things are often “black or white” - there is very little middle ground. b. Look to adults for approval. c. Like encouragement and suggestions for improvement. d. Need Opportunities to share thoughts and reactions. e. Thinking is concrete, but beginning to think logically 3. Social Development a. Like to join organized groups. b. Beginning to take responsibility for own actions. c. Decision-making skills are being developed. 4. Emotional Development a. Strong need to feel accepted and worthwhile. b. Beginning to build and understand friendship. Know How Your Child Grows SIX to EIGHT YEARS 1. Physical development a. Physical play very lively; sporting skills develop quickly 2. General behavior a. Bathes, dresses, sleeps, and eats well; talks to strangers; takes part in team sports; drawings show some proportion and perspective. 3. Language a. Reads with understanding; learns spelling and grammar; starts to add and subtract two or three digit numbers and multiply and divide single digit numbers. 4. Typical personality a. Self reliant, sociable and outgoing; active; may be critical of others. Know How Your Child Grows NINE to ELEVEN YEARS 1. Physical development a. Skilled with hands and fingers; special skills such as in sport and music become evident. 2. General behavior a. Well behaved; works or plays hard; self-sufficient and may enjoy being alone. 3. Language a. Masters basic techniques of reading, writing, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing; reads stories and writes brief letters to relatives. 4. Typical personality a. Sensible; self motivated; may be shy in social situations; may talk about sex information with friends; interested in body organs and functions; less afraid of dark; not afraid of water. 5. Common normal ‘problems’ a. Worried and anxious; has physical complaints such as stomachaches and headaches when has to do disliked tasks; rebels against authority; sex swearing beginning; perseveres with tasks. After Divorce Needs In terms of divorce, children of this age wish their parents to reunite (90% of seven- year-old children) and may still attempt to reunite their parents. They fear losing both parents and may still blame themselves for the divorce. They often react to the divorce with sadness. It is common for children of this age to have difficulties concentrating in school because they are thinking about the loss and reunification and they may have some academic risk. Children of this age can typically move between two homes with minimal stress. Most children at this time need a home base where they can work on basic academics, do homework consistently and have their friends easily available. They need routines and schedules. Children in grades 1-3 are often more able to interact with a same-sex parent around hobbies, interests and feelings than younger children who depend on basic care. For primary school age children, the parenting schedule should minimize the interference with peer relationships. To do otherwise may cause your child’s resentment and rejection. Divorce at this age group can cause confusion and some feelings of blame. Children’s initial concern is who will be there for them. They are concerned about basic needs such as where they will stay. They need a feeling of security at home in order to deal with issues at school or with friends. (Bauserman 2002) Divorce brings many challenges to children of this age. Younger school-age children tend to feel the loss of the family as a unit and may experience sadness and crying. Older children in this age group may be more likely to experience anger and choose one parent over the other as a way to hold on to their self- esteem and relationships. Your child may feel directly responsible for your divorce, especially if she is put in the middle of your conflict. Some children will show more severe symptoms, including tantrums, regression, sleep problems, behavioral and academic problems in school, withdrawal or aggression with peers, and depression. (Buchman, Maccoby and Dornbusch 1996) Some of these children do not want to grow up, and instead remain emotionally immature. Children in this age group believe in fairness and want to please their parents. They may feel overwhelmed by your conflicts and try to fix them, yet they cannot. If one of the parents is depressed, your child may try to take care of that parent’s emotional problems. • Exchanges should minimize your child’s exposure to conflict. School or other neutral places are excellent transition places between Mom’s house and Dad’s house. • You must find ways to keep your children out of the middle of your conflicts. Do not have your child deliver messages to the other parent, or ask your child to tell you what the other parent is doing. Communication needs to be between the parents only, even if this requires help from a neutral professional. • To the extent you can, there should be a plan for co-parenting. If your conflict is more extreme, a pattern of parallel parenting and avoidance of each other is best CONTACT BASED ON KNOWING YOUR CHILD AGE: SIX through Eleven YEARS 1. Every Other Weekend (Friday 6:00 p.m. to Sunday 6:00 p.m.) 4/28 overnights In a review of a decade of research Kelley (2000) cites the benefit of being close to each parent. This option establishes 12 days separation from the second parent. Divorce research indicates that this is often too long for many children, and may diminish the second parent’s importance to the children – with fewer opportunities for involvement in their day-to-day, school and homework activities. (Shafke,1985) In addition, this option provides little relief to the first parent from children responsibilities. This option may be preferred, however, given the parents’ history of involvement, available time for parenting, present parenting resources or, as a transitional approach to timesharing. Every Other Weekend plus Midweek Visit (Friday 6:00 p.m. to Sunday 6:00 p.m., with every Wednesday 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.) 4/28 overnights Every Other Week (Friday 6:00 p.m. to following Friday 8:00 a.m.) 14/28 overnights This parenting plan option creates seven days separation from the other parent, often quite difficult for children younger than six or seven years of age. It eliminates the opportunity for face-to-face parental conflict by minimizing transitions, and allows both parents and mature children to “settle” into a routine. The children’s switching residences can, of course, complicate management of scheduled lessons, activity commitments and daycare arrangements. Note: changing households on Friday after school often works better than on the traditional Monday after school approach (allowing for a “winding-down” at the time of transition, rather than requiring “gearing-up” at that time). Serious reservation of this seven-day option must be given in cases involving parental alienation. Summer Vacations When parents live in separate communities, it can be difficult to plan a schedule. If you have a long- distance relationship, your child will need to be in one home during the school year, and visit the other parent during non-school time. Consider the travel time and your child’s age and activities when you develop your schedule. If you are the “summer parent,” try and spend some time with your child every three months. If your child is young, you might need to do most of the traveling. Once your child is old enough to travel alone, it is still important to visit the child at least once or twice a year. Use three-day weekends for monthly contact during the school year if you live close enough, or longer holiday breaks such as Thanksgiving or Easter if you live farther away. If you are the “school year parent” and live a long distance from the other parent, try and enroll your child in a year-round school. This allows for more frequent travel to be with the other parent, yet won’t take the child away for as long as the traditional summer break. Consider the day-to-day activities in both communities, since working parents need daycare or planned activities when children come to visit. Your child is likely to do well if your child has all but one week of each break with the long-distance parent. That leaves the child some time to be with friends in the child’s home community and time for vacation trips with each parent. If your child is in a typical school-year/summer-vacation schedule, your child is likely to have two weeks of vacation at Christmas, another week or two during the spring or near Easter, and about twelve weeks off in the summer. If the child is under age eight, consider having an equal split of the Christmas break, and most spring breaks with the long-distance parent. Try breaking up the summer into three segments: the first and third with the long-distance parent and the middle one with the home parent. This may prevent the child from feeling homesick during the child’s trips. If the child is older and used to being away from home, the child might do well spending most of the summer with the long-distance parent, assuming the child enjoys it there and has a good relationship with that parent. Both of you need to consider the child’s interests, summer camp desires, and vacation needs as you develop your plan. (Lye1999) WAYS TO MAKE YOUR CHILD’S VISITATION EASIER Children of this developmental stage benefit from parents who: Make sure your child knows which parent will be picking them up and taking them home. If both parents will be attending an activity, allow the child to visit with both parents during that event. Develop a system where both parents are informed of school conferences, and extra-curricular activities. 1. Establish a homework routine, with assistance as necessary. Be sure to pack all books, school projects, uniforms and extra-curricular sports gear. Establish with the other parent the procedure for when children leave any of the abovementioned at the other parent’s home. Decide who will be responsible for getting this to the child. 2. Establish a consistent homework time, bedtime, and mealtime at both homes. Attempt to provide similar diet at both homes. Television, computer, and playtime should be consistent. Agree on similar punishments for poor academic progress and unacceptable behavior. 3. Allow the children to have telephone access to the other parent when they desire. Be considerate of when you call the children, as not to interrupt bedtime or wake-up routines. If needed establish a schedule for the other parent to call. AGE: 11 through 18 Years SPECIAL DEVELOPMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR CONTACT Children between the ages of 11 and 18 usually seek more independence as they get older and prefer to do more things with less adult involvement. This pattern becomes more obvious as the children age. As children move through this stage, a good balance of supervision and flexibility is essential. Parents must be sure that visitation schedules are flexible and consider the natural tendency of the child toward increased independence from both parents. As children become more active in school and social activities, visitation likely will need to be reviewed and even restructured from time to time. Know How Your Child Grows A. Normal Developmental Stages: Children in this age range are called “adolescents,” with 3 different stages as described below. Generally, adolescents move through the following tasks during this period: Establish a sense of autonomy (self-sufficiency) and personal identity; Achieve emotional independence from parents and other adults; and Begin process of individuation (separateness) from immediate and even extended family. 1. Physical Development a. If puberty has not occurred yet, it likely will occur during this period, bringing rapid changes and “swings” in the child’s hormones and emotions, together with common physical changes of puberty. b. As physical development proceeds, especially sex-related physical changes, the child will likely want more privacy. Boundaries regarding physical contact by parents may occur. For example, the parent’s hug that once was natural and welcomed by the child may now be met with a very different response, including withdrawal and even some rejection. 2. Cognitive (Mental) Development a. Concrete initially, more capacity for abstract thinking develops throughout adolescence b. Greater critical thinking that may result in frequent comparisons and evaluation of others’ behavior, appearance and preferences (including parents) with child’s own preferences. c. Brain development continues; for much of this period, the portion of brain that supports rational judgement, organization, emotional understanding and decision-making is not fully developed. 3. Social Development a. Peer relationships take on a much greater importance. b. Increasing independence from family is sought and demanded. c. Though focused on independence, still concerned with meeting parents’ expectations and need assistance in coping with age-related demands. d. Increased interest in sexual matters and sexual identity. 4. Emotional Development a. Increased ability for introspection (self-examination and understanding). b. Identity formation occurs as the child explores various alternatives and makes choices that affect self-concept. Identity formation may include sexual, ethnic and career aspects. For some adolescents, this can be a time of role or identity confusion. c. Puberty and incomplete brain development may result in significant emotional volatility (“moodiness”) and, in some cases; this moodiness may be or seem extreme. 11 TO 13 YEARS (EARLY ADOLESCENCE) 1. Physical development: Sexual characteristics of puberty occur or continue to develop; boys typically have higher physical self-concept (recognition of physical ability) than girls. 2. General behavior: Behavior largely decided by or compared to friends and schoolmates; social interaction outside of family more important; as part of individuation, children will more often challenge parents’ values and authority. Girls tend to feel better about themselves in social situations than do boys. Same-sex peer groups are more important than opposite sex. 3. Language: Reads with greater understanding; may use language and abstract thinking to write about and report on emotional experiences. 4. Typical personality: Peer relationships and acceptance become increasingly important; complaints about parental restrictions and supervision increase; mood swings common; may vary between need for and rejection of parental affection and expectations. 5. Common or “normal” problems: forgetfulness; minor rebellion against parental rules and restrictions; lack of organization regarding school and home spaces (messy room, locker and/or desk) 14 to 16 YEARS (MIDDLE ADOLESCENCE) 1. Physical development: Puberty completed or nearly completed. 2. General behavior: Increased romantic and/or sexual feelings toward others; Mixed-sex group activities increase; Self-centered; undecided at times regarding issues of separation and independence. Wants greater role in decision-making on issues affecting them. 3. Language: Increased use of language to report on emotional experiences and complaints. Prefer to communicate with peers over parents; may increase use of computers and other technology to maintain regular communication with peers. 4. Typical personality: Increasing efforts to achieve independence from parental restrictions and rules; attempts to bargain regarding attendance at social activities; critical thinking patterns may result in frequent judgments and “black and white” evaluations of issues. Page 21 21 5. Common normal ‘problems’: May begin to associate greater physical maturity with adulthood, leading to increased risk for harmful or premature behaviors; parent-child power struggles, especially around issues such as dating, curfews, household chores and driving privileges. Experimenting with drug and alcohol use and/or sexual behaviors; incomplete understanding of impact of potentially unsafe behaviors (sex, drugs, alcohol,). 17 to 18 YEARS (LATE ADOLESCENCE) [Note: actually through Age 20] 1. General behavior: Increased romantic and/or sexual feelings toward others; Individual relationships with others begin to become more important than peer groups; frequently challenge parental authority and restrictions. 2. Typical personality: Self-centered idealism; right and wrong thinking, begins to become more other-oriented. Mood swings of puberty and early post-puberty may stabilize somewhat. 3. Common normal ‘problems’: School (including college planning) and social activities may compete, causing stress; experimenting with drug and alcohol use and/or sexual behaviors; incomplete understanding of impact of potentially unsafe behaviors (sex, drugs, alcohol, reckless driving). After Divorce Needs The needs of adolescents after divorce depend, in part, on whether divorce occurs during this stage or occurs earlier in their development. If the divorce occurs at this stage of development, the need for some structure, consistency and reassurance of each parent’s involvement is more important. Anger and blame may be common as adolescents become more judgemental. However, as children move into and through adolescence, they may become more focused on the “fairness” of a plan for parental contact and they will likely consider it “fair” to include them to some extent in plans that are made for where they will spend their time. Whether or not parents are married or divorced, adolescence is a time of increasing importance of peer relationships, social activities and independence, a fact that must be considered in any after divorce family. Parents must be ready to: support their teen’s attempts to achieve developmental tasks; accept the teen’s beliefs, feelings and attitudes without being judgemental; set appropriate limits on behavior but not on those beliefs, feelings and attitudes; foster empathy with the teen by remembering (not necessarily reciting) your own feelings and behaviors as a teen; allow their teen to be different than the parent is or was at that age or now; acknowledge and support the teen’s need for independence and autonomy. CONTACT BASED ON KNOWING YOUR CHILD FOR ALL ADOLESCENTS: Perhaps more than any other age range, and particularly in later adolescence, the flexibility recommended in the literature makes a strict schedule difficult and even harmful to the adolescent’s development, in some cases. Longer vacations or contact periods, more creative time-sharing alternatives, and even equal time-sharing may be options, depending on the particular needs of a child and the relationship established before the divorce. All contact arrangements should be negotiated in good faith, keeping in mind your child and the special developmental tasks of adolescents. The suggestions that follow, as mentioned in the introduction, cannot be viewed as appropriate for each situation and each child. 11 TO 13 YEARS (EARLY ADOLESCENCE) Every Other Weekend (Friday 6:00 p.m. to Sunday 6:00 p.m.) Many adolescents prefer one primary home (in a large part to avoid confusion for their friends), and only wish to spend weekends or evenings with the other parent. Much of this will depend on the history of the relationship and the availability of the parent to meet their needs. Every Other Weekend/only one weekend overnight (Friday after school to Saturday 6:00 p.m.) or (Saturday noon to Sunday 6:00 p.m.) Adolescent children often have multiple projects and school assignments requiring their effort, as well as a number of options for peer-group contact on weekends. Parents may consider structuring weekend overnight visitation on an evening when it is more likely that the child will not have to decline social invitations. Phone calls should be encouraged and permitted at all reasonable times. Some contact should occur each week or, at a minimum, every other week. If the child is not used to having individual and continued contact with the nonresidential parent, consider allowing a friend to join the child on some occasions. Other contact: If at all possible, offer your child some input into the planned summer vacation contact schedule. Offering a choice between two equally appropriate options can give a child a feeling of some control over his or her time, meeting their need for greater independence. If an extended summer stay with the non-residential parent is likely, that parent should make efforts in advance to locate social and recreational outlets for the child. During extended time away from either parent, phone calls and email exchanged with that parent may be helpful. This communication should not focus on negative messages about either parent. School breaks of one week or more should be structured in a way that takes into account the needs of the child noted above. 14 TO 18 YEARS (MIDDLE AND LATE ADOLESCENCE) Weekly contact: Contact should occur each week. Contact should be structured with some consideration of child’s school and social activities. During earlier stages, consistency and predictability are very important; at this age, some flexibility by each parent becomes more important. Older adolescent children often have multiple projects and school assignments requiring their effort, as well as a number of options for peer-group contact on weekends. Parents may consider structuring weekly contact on a day when it is more likely that the child will not repeatedly have to decline social invitations. Overnight stays may become increasingly uncomfortable for older adolescents, especially older adolescent girls staying with fathers with whom they have not had open communication and interaction prior to or during the divorce. For this reason, shorter periods of contact should be considered as an alternative. To avoid frustration, it is helpful for the child and both parents to keep a calendar that outlines visitation as far in advance as possible and be prepared for reasonable changes to be requested by the child. If child requests additional contact with non-residential parent, contact should be permitted. Phone calls and appropriate emails, text messages, and other forms of communication should be encouraged and permitted at all reasonable times. Due to reported and researched risks associated with teenagers who drive without adult supervision, transportation to and from the non-residential parent’s home should be coordinated and completed by parents whenever possible, whether or not your child has a driver’s license. This requires that parents are courteous to and respectful of each other as the transfer occurs. If the child is not used to having individual and continued contact with the parent, consider allowing a same-sex friend to join the child on some occasions. Other contact: If at all possible, offer your child some input into the planned summer vacation contact schedule. Offering a choice between two equally appropriate options can give a child a feeling of some control over his or her time, meeting the need for greater independence. Some children as young as age 14 may view summer as a time to earn extra spending money through part-time work. Some consideration should be made for this possibility. School breaks of one week or more should be structured in a way that takes into account the child’s increasing movement toward independence. While you still are the child’s parent and have a valuable relationship with your child, the real fact is that most children at this age become less and less interested in having long discussions and extended contact with their parents. Particularly as a child moves into late adolescence, parents may find the child is increasingly occupied with peer and school activities, leaving only occasional time available to spend with either parent, regardless of their designation as the residential or parent. Compensate for changes in physical contact by liberal use of phone calls, messages that do not require a response but offer the child encouragement, limited text messages (if parent views a cell phone as appropriate for his or her child), e-mails, greeting cards, notes and letters. Interventions for Children of Divorce: Custody, Access, and Psychotherapy, 2nd Edition Chapter: Visitation/Parent Access: Patterns and Problems. © 1991 William F. Hodges WAYS TO MAKE YOUR CHILD’S CONTACT WITH NON- RESIDENTIAL PARENT EASIER Children in adolescence benefit from parents who both: Commit to be and are flexible about visitation and understand their child’s need for greater time with peers and social activities. Though a regular contact schedule appears to encourage more frequent non- custodial parent contact, adolescents report a very strong preference for flexible, unrestricted access. Offer and accept a greater role by children in determining some details of contact with the secondary residential parent, while continuing to encourage a relationship with each parent as much as possible. Work diligently to be cordial to one another and minimize conflict. Do not use adolescents as messengers for information or couriers for documents and records. Parents should work to create a co-parenting relationship that includes respectful discussion and cooperation as it relates to their roles as parents. Plan for activities that offer some social stimulation to the child; adolescents frequently report being “bored” when their time with the non-custodial parent consists only of “watching TV” or “talking.” GROUNDS: The marriage is irretrievably broken or one of the parties has been adjudged to be mentally incapacitated according to the provisions of Florida Statute Section 744.331 for at least the last three years. There is no requirement that the other spouse must consent to a dissolution of marriage. COURSE: All parties to a dissolution of marriage proceeding with minor children or a paternity action which involves issues of parental responsibility shall be required to complete the Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course prior to the entry by the court of a final judgment. The court may excuse a party from attending the parenting course for good cause. Family Law Under what circumstances will the court award alimony or spousal support? How is the amount of child support calculated? Once a court issues a child support order, can the amount of support that is paid be changed? How is child support collected if the person responsible for paying it moves to another state? What are parents' obligations to their children? How does a court decide which parent will get custody of a child? What is the legal divorce process like? What kinds of assets are divided in a divorce? What terms should be included in a separation agreement? Learn More: Family Law Under what circumstances will the court award alimony or spousal support? The obligation of spouses to support each other does not necessarily terminate when they divorce. There is temporary alimony, permanent alimony, durational alimony, rehabilitative alimony and bridge-the gap alimony available. If the divorce will leave one spouse with very little income and the other with enough to contribute to the low-income spouse's support, the court will usually award alimony, at least temporarily.Although historically spousal maintenance was typically awarded to homemaker wives, to be paid by breadwinning husbands, that is no longer always the case. Now, either spouse may be awarded alimony if the other has the more substantial income and the recipient spouse's income is insufficient to support him or her at the level to which the spouses were accustomed during the marriage.Spousal support is often awarded in cases in which one spouse has put his or her education or career on hold in order to raise the parties' children while the other climbed the career ladder and achieved a higher income. In such cases, the alimony will often be temporary, providing income for the period of time that will enable the recipient spouse to become self-supporting. This temporary, or rehabilitative, spousal support enables the spouse receiving it to further his or her education, reestablish himself or herself in a former career, or complete childrearing responsibilities, after which time he or she can be self-sufficient. If one spouse is unable to get a good-paying job, however, due perhaps to health or advanced age, the support award may be permanent.The amount and duration of alimony depends on several factors, including: The length of the marriage;The age of each spouse;The health of each spouse;
The ability of each spouse to be self-supporting, including a consideration of responsibilities to the parties' minor children, if any;The income of the primary breadwinner; and Standard of living the parties enjoyed during the marriage. How is the amount of child support calculated? Each state has developed guidelines that help establish the amount of child support that must be paid. The guidelines vary significantly from state to state, but they are all generally based on the parent's incomes and expenses and the needs of the children. In some states, the guidelines allow judges greater discretion in determining the amount of child support that must be paid, but in other states any variance from the guidelines must be carefully justified or it can be readily overturned on appeal. Often, the guidelines are set out in a chart-type format that calculates the child support amount as a percentage of the paying parent's income that increases as the number of children being supported rises. It is important to remember, however, that the guidelines are just that-guidelines-and they are not fixed amounts that must be applied under any and all circumstances. Judges are free to deviate from the guidelines when there are good reasons to do so. If, for instance, one party or a child has higher than average expenses, the amount can vary. Or if the court determines that the paying parent is voluntarily earning less than he or she could for the purpose of minimizing the child support obligation, the judge can calculate the amount of child support based on what the payer is capable of earning. Despite the variations from state to state, there are some general factors that are almost universally considered by judges issuing child support orders, including:
The child's standard of living before the parents' separation or divorce;
The paying parent's ability to pay;The custodial parent's needs and income; and
The needs of the child or children, including educational costs, daycare expenses, and medical expenses, such as for health insurance or special health care needs.Judges will often review a financial statement completed by each parent that lists all sources and amounts of income and expense before issuing an order. If any of the listed items changes significantly, either parent may go back to court and ask for an increase or decrease in the amount of child support ordered.Once a court issues a child support order, can the
amount of support that is paid be changed?The amount of child support is modifiable under certain circumstances and through a variety of methods. The simplest method is for the parents to agree to a change, but the court must approve even an agreed-upon change in order to be enforceable.Example: If the payer parent loses his job and asks the custodial parent if he can go a few months without paying support until he has a new job, the custodial parent may voluntarily agree to this modification. If, however, she later decides that she wants to collect the amount of support that went unpaid during that temporary period, the court might support her if it never formally approved the change.When there is no voluntary agreement, the party seeking the change must request a court hearing at which each side will present, usually through counsel, the reasons supporting and opposing the modification. The court usually will not grant the request unless there has been some fairly significant change in circumstances that justifies the change, such as a significant increase in either parent's income through a remarriage or job change or a substantial change in the needs of the child. Changes in the child support laws, too, may justify a change in previously issued orders. Also, an increase in the cost of living can warrant an upward modification of child support, but generally these periodic increases are provided for in the original order so that the parties do not need to make repeated court appearances each time there is a significant change in the cost of living. Other anticipated changes that can be provided for in the original child support order include a reduction upon the emancipation of each child, an increase when a child enters college, or any other change based on an event that the parties anticipate and that will have an impact on need or ability to pay.How is child support collected if the person responsible for paying it moves to another state?Under the Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (RURESA), an order for support issued by the family court in one state will be enforced by the family court in another state to which the paying parent moves if certain conditions are met. Under RURESA, the custodial parent has two options for how to proceed to collect support.Under the first option, the custodial parent who receives the support must register the order for support in the county where the payer parent now lives. The family court in that county can provide information on the proper registration procedure. That court will then move to enforce the order and make the non-custodial parent pay. The payer parent can, however, go to court in his or her new home state and argue that the child support amount should be modified downward, and if he or she is successful, the child's home-state court is stuck with the reduced amount. A newer interstate support act called the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, which has been adopted in some states, does not allow the court in the new home state to modify the original court's support order.Alternatively, the custodial parent can go to the family court in his or her home state to commence an action to enforce the support award issued by that court. The enforcement agency that serves that court will then notify the payer's new home state so that enforcement actions, such as wage withholding, can be implemented there. Under this method, the payer cannot get the award modified in his or her new home state. The new state's court can, however, determine that the amount of child support ordered is too high and require that only a portion of it be paid, but the original state does not have to accept the reduced amount. The payer remains liable for the full amount as originally ordered, and if he or she fails to pay it, the original state may issue an arrest warrant, and the delinquency can show up on the payer's credit report.What are parents' obligations to their children?Every parent has the duty to provide his or her children with the basic necessities of life, including food, clothing, and shelter. This duty usually terminates when the child is emancipated, which generally occurs at the age of eighteen, when the child graduates from high school, when the child enters the military, or when the child marries, but the support obligation can extend beyond that point if the child is unable to support himself or herself and would become a public obligation without familial support. The law generally does not dictate the level of support that is provided when the children live with both parents, but when, through divorce or other circumstances, the child is living with one parent, there are strict rules about the amount of financial support provided by the non-custodial parent.In most instances, parents also have the responsibility to provide necessary medical care for their children. If parents refuse life-saving medical treatment for their children, the state may intervene against the parents' wishes, even if they made their decision on religious grounds.Parents must also make sure that their children meet school attendance requirements. They do, however, have the right to decide whether the child's education will be in a public school, a private school, or through home schooling.Stepparents have no legal obligation toward their stepchildren. When they assume the role of the sole provider of the child's support, however, they may be held accountable for providing that support even if the marriage to the child's biological parent ends. Of course, if a stepparent adopts a stepchild, the obligations are the same as they are in any other parent-child relationship.How does a court decide which parent will get custody of a child?When the parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, the court will make the decision for them after considering the totality of the circumstances, with the overriding consideration being the child's best interests. To make that determination, the court considers: The child's age;The child's gender;The child's physical and mental health;The parents' physical and mental health;The parents' lifestyles;Any history of abuse;The emotional bonds between the parent and the child;The parent's ability to give the child guidance;The parent's ability to provide the basic necessities, such as food, shelter, clothing, and medical care;The child's routines, including home, school, community, and religious;The willingness of the parent to encourage a healthy, on-going relationship between the child and the other parent; andIf the child is above a certain age, the child's preference.In many cases, a consideration of these factors results in awarding custody to the parent who has been the child's primary caretaker. Although this is often the child's mother, any preference for the mother strictly on a gender basis is outmoded.What is the legal divorce process like?Although some divorces are very simple and can be handled with a minimum amount of red tape and delay, such as when there is no significant property involved and the couple has no children, most divorces are far more difficult and can take many different courses. The following, however, is a basic outline of the divorce process. One spouse contacts a lawyer, who assists in the preparation of a petition (or complaint), the legal document that sets forth the reasons why the divorce should be granted and outlines the relief sought.The petition is filed with the court and served on the other spouse, together with a summons that requires that spouse's response.The served spouse must respond within the time limit prescribed or it will be assumed that he or she does not contest the petition, in which case the petitioner will be granted the requested relief. The response, or answer, must set forth the relief that the answering spouse requests.The parties, through their attorneys, engage in "discovery," during which they exchange all documents and other information relevant to deciding the issues in the divorce such as property division, spousal support, child support, etc.The parties may attempt to reach a settlement based on the full disclosure to each other of all relevant information. The settlement process can be initiated voluntarily or facilitated by the parties' lawyers or a neutral third party, such as a mediator.If a settlement is reached, the agreement encompassing the terms of the settlement is submitted to the court at an informal hearing. The judge will ask both parties a few basic factual questions and whether they understand and freely entered into the agreement.If the judge approves the agreement, he or she issues a divorce decree that includes the terms to which the parties agreed. If he or she does not approve it, or if there has been no agreement, the case will go to trial.At trial, the attorneys present the evidence and arguments for both sides, and the judge decides the unresolved issues, including child custody and visitation, child and spousal support, and property division, and grants the divorce.Either or both parties can appeal the judge's decision to a higher court.The entire process can take from as little as a few months to as long as several years. The main determinant of how smoothly the process will go is the level of cooperation between the parties and their willingness to compromise.What kinds of assets are divided in a divorce?The parties in a divorce can agree to the division of, or the judge will divide, all marital or community property owned by the parties. Generally speaking, this includes most of the property the couple acquired during the marriage, including the marital home; a second or vacation home; home furnishings and appliances; artwork; vehicles, including cars, boats, airplanes, snowmobiles, and motorcycles; money; stocks, bonds, and other investments; pensions; and privately owned businesses.The value of other, more intangible property is also often divided. Examples of divisible intangible property include the value of a patent on an invention, the value of the celebrity status of a spouse's name, the goodwill value of a business owned by one spouse, and the value of a professional degree earned by one spouse. The value of these intangible assets will generally only be divided when both spouses made a substantial contribution to that value, either directly or indirectly, such as by supporting the spouse to whom the asset is more directly attributable.It is not always easy for a spouse to identify all of the assets that may be available for valuation and division, especially if the other spouse is less than forthcoming with the details. This is where the parties' lawyers can help. Through the legal process known as discovery, the parties' attorneys exchange documents that reveal each party's income, assets, and liabilities. Documents such as tax returns, personal financial statements, bank account statements, brokerage house records, real estate records, loan applications, and business records usually give a clear indication of each party's financial situation. In addition, each spouse is usually deposed by the other spouse's attorney. At the deposition, the questioned spouse will respond, under oath, to questions designed to gather all necessary information about his or her assets and income.If necessary, additional parties may be deposed, such as employers, bankers, or business partners. If these additional witnesses do not come forth willingly, their presence can be compelled through the issuance of a subpoena, which is an official legal document that commands their participation.What happens to the property that each spouse owned before the marriage?In most states, whether they follow a community-property or equitable-distribution scheme, the property that each spouse owned before the marriage, as well as property given to or inherited by one spouse during the marriage, usually remains that spouse's separate property. It may, however, be considered as part of the total circumstances in determining a fair allocation of the marital property.In addition, if non-marital property is not kept separate from marital property, it may lose its separate characterization and become subject to division.Example: If one spouse had a bank account containing $5,000 before the marriage, but during the marriage the spouses both made deposits and withdrawals from the same account, the amount in the account at the time of divorce or separation will probably be deemed marital property, to be divided between the husband and wife. If, on the other hand, the spouse with the $5,000 account deposits only other non-marital money, such as inheritances to him or her alone, in the account throughout the marriage, all the money in the account will probably remain with that spouse upon divorce.A house owned by one spouse prior to marriage presents unique issues, because often both spouses contribute to the home's maintenance and mortgage payments during their marriage. In some states, this commingling of marital and non-marital assets converts the home to marital property. Perhaps the fairer resolution, however, applied in other states, is that the amount of equity in the home at the time of marriage remains the original owner-spouse's property, but the increase in equity value during the marriage is marital property that belongs to both spouses. The same principles apply in cases involving increases in the value of a family business owned by one spouse before marriage.What terms should be included in a separation agreement?Although a legal agreement is not required when a couple decides to separate, working out certain details can preserve harmony, protect rights, and promote predictability. A separation agreement may be most advisable when the parties have very different financial situations, such as when one spouse is the wage-earner and the other is raising the couple's children. A formal separation agreement can help ensure that all family members' needs will be met.An attorney can make sure that a separation agreement covers all necessary details and complies with applicable law. Although it may seem like a good idea to save money by having one lawyer draft or review the agreement, it is really in each party's best interests to be separately represented, so that each lawyer can draft or review the separation agreement with his or her client's needs in mind. The terms of such agreements will vary, depending on the needs of the particular parties involved, but the following items should be addressed:
The spouses' right to live separately;Custody of the children;A visitation schedule, or a provision for reasonable visitation;Child support;Alimony or spousal support;The children's expenses, including medical, dental, educational, and recreational;Property and debt division;Insurance, including medical, dental, and life; andIncome taxes.A separation agreement does not need to be filed with the court, but can be presented to the court if a dispute arises. As with pre-and post-marital agreements, a separation agreement may be unenforceable if either party failed to make a full disclosure or coerced the other to enter into it. If and when the parties officially file for divorce, the separation agreement's terms may be incorporated into a settlement agreement, but the parties will have an opportunity to change the terms if necessary.

Call attorney Chandler for a Free Consultation at (954) 788-1355.

The laws relating to families have changed dramatically since the 1970s as judges and legislators have reexamined and redefined the legal issues involved in divorces, child custody disputes, child support, domestic violence, and other family law matters. Family law has become entangled in national debates over family structure, gender bias, and morality. Few legal areas are as emotionally charged as family law, primarily for the litigants, but also for the lawyers and judges involved in the cases and even the public at large. Despite the changes already made by courts and legislatures, family law remains a contentious and ever-changing area of law, which will continue to evolve as families and society evolve.
Divorce, or dissolution of marriage is no longer fault-based and has become easier to obtain. Whereas not too long ago one spouse had to accuse the other of some grave misdeed, such as adultery, cruelty, alcoholism, or drug addiction, divorce is now available on the basis of incompatibility, irreconcilable differences, or an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship. The division of marital property has also changed in recent years, so that now each spouse is given a more equitable share of the property upon divorce. One change that demonstrates this phenomenon is the recognition of the homemaker spouse's contributions to the accumulation of marital property. For example, whereas once the husband who developed and grew his own business while his "nonworking" wife stayed home would walk away from the marriage with all of the business assets, courts now award a significant portion of the business assets to the wife, who enabled that business growth by taking care of the home and children, and by entertaining business clients and associates. On the other hand, homemaker spouses are not considered as dependent as they once were, and as a result alimony, if awarded at all, is now often temporary, with the thought that after a period of "rehabilitation" these spouses can become self-sufficient.Issues like child custody, too, have evolved in the courts as cultural and societal attitudes have changed. Mothers may have been favored in many custody disputes of the past, but now fathers are given much more consideration than in the past. Custody battles, while always difficult and emotional, have become even more complicated as reproductive technology has increased the ways in which people can become parents.

Family law lawyers and judges are faced with new, difficult, and sensitive questions such as who gets custody of fertilized embryos when a couple that was involved in infertility/assisted-reproduction treatments separates. Surrogate parenting, too, presents heart-wrenching custody issues when the surrogate fails to abide by the surrogacy contract or wants visitation with the child. Equally difficult issues can arise when sperm or egg donors make some claim to their genetic offspring. These issues involve questions relating not only to custody laws, but also to those involving adoption, children's rights, and paternity. And as technology advances, the law will be presented with an even greater challenge to keep pace.Another major change in family law in recent years is the recognition that many family disputes can be resolved more expediently and in a less acrimonious manner than through the traditional litigation process. In divorce and child custody cases in particular, the adversarial process has increased tensions between the parties that do not abate even when the process is complete. As a result, many states have begun to explore other, non-adversarial alternatives, such as mandatory mediation, which can save time and money and preserve relationships to the extent possible.Edward J. Chandler can provide valuable counsel and objective representation in what can be emotionally charged situations. His experience includes several family law issues.Alimony and spousal support are legal terms for income provided by one spouse or former spouse to the other during a separation or after divorce. Although once traditionally awarded primarily to wives for an indefinite period, alimony awards are now awarded to either spouse if he or she needs financial assistance and the other is able to provide it, and they tend to be temporary, for a period of rehabilitation that enables the recipient spouse to become self-supporting. Child support is generally ordered by the court in situations in which a child lives with one but not both parents. The non-custodial parent, or the parent with whom the child does not live, is responsible for contributing a certain portion of his or her income, based on state child support guidelines, to help support the child, even if the custodial parent has income of his or her own. Children's rights cover a broad spectrum, which includes not only the rights afforded to all U.S. citizens, but also those rights that are theirs due to their status as children, such as the right to food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and education. Children are not, however, guaranteed all of the constitutional protections that are provided to adults. Parenting Plans and visitation issues can arise when parents are divorced or separated, when the parents have never been married, or when some type of reproductive technology, such as surrogate motherhood or sperm and egg donation cases, complicates the issues even further. Courts generally apply a "best interests of the child" standard when determining to whom primary overnights should be awarded. Divorce is the legal process by which a marriage is terminated. In a divorce proceeding, the parties' marriage is legally ended and the related issues, such as spousal and child support, child custody and visitation, and property and debt division, are resolved, either by the parties' voluntary agreement, through the assistance of a mediator, or after a court trial. Domestic violence and neglect include physical, mental, and sexual abuse of children, mates, elderly persons, or other vulnerable adults in the perpetrator's household. Abuse and neglect have long-term consequences, but there are legal mechanisms through which victims or interested third parties can seek protection. Juvenile law relates not only to juvenile delinquency proceedings, in which the juvenile is charged with an offense that would be a crime if committed by an adult, but also to juveniles charged with status offenses, abused and neglected children, and children in need of social services. Paternity refers to a legal action to establish that a man is the father of a child. A paternity action may be brought in order to impose a child support obligation, establish a right to inheritance, secure consent for the child's adoption, or gain or prohibit custody or visitation rights. Prenuptial agreements are contracts entered into by a couple in contemplation of marriage. They usually address property issues that may arise in the event of divorce or death, and are often used as vehicles to provide for greater awards of property to children from previous marriages, or when one spouse brings substantially greater assets to the marriage. They are only enforceable under certain circumstances.  

Other frequently asked questions:

Child custody evaluations
    Child support and/or visitation
    Court filings
    Courtroom facilities & equipment
    Divorce
Child Custody Evaluations–
How do I comply with a court-ordered child custody evaluation?
If a custody investigation has been ordered, you can expect the following;

The  investigation will not be initiated until each party pays their share of the court-ordered fee (if any) and submits the completed Parent and Child Questionnaires to the appropriate office.
 
Once the investigation is initiated, and each party is interviewed, it will take at least three months to complete. Once the case is assigned for investigation, no refunds of the fees will be made if the case is settled or rescinded.
 
An investigator will contact each party to schedule personal interviews. The investigator will ask each party to sign “Release of Information” forms so that the investigator may obtain records pertinent to the custody investigation. The investigator will also interview each party in their homes and observe each party with the child(ren). A child may be interviewed if the investigator feels the child is of sufficient age and maturity.
 
The assigned investigator will contact many “collateral” sources – including friends, relatives, school personnel, medical personnel, counselors, day care workers, and other professionals.
 
After interviewing all parties involved and evaluating the information obtained from collateral sources, the investigator will submit a written report to the judge. The report will contain recommendations on case issues such as custody, visitation, etc. The investigator may also make recommendations about services either party or the entire family might need – such as counseling, parenting classes, substance abuse evaluation, etc.
 
Once the investigator’s written report has been filed, the investigator’s involvement with the family ends. The investigator’s report contains recommendations. The judge makes the final decision in the case.

Child support and/or visitation: How do I have my child support payments modified because the payments are
too high; I am disabled; I am out of work; the child is living with me; the child is deceased?

If you want child support payments lowered or discontinued, a written Petition for Modification must be filed with the court, specifically stating what is wanted and why. The Petition, accompanied by a current financial affidavit, must be personally served on the former spouse, and a hearing must be scheduled before a judge, General Magistrate, or Hearing Officer.
 
How do I get a former spouse to pay court-ordered child support? When possible, it is recommended that you be represented by an attorney in all court matters. If you are representing yourself, the judge/general
magistrate/hearing officer will not speak with you about lack of payment until a written motion has been filed, and you have properly scheduled a hearing with notice to all parties.

My ex-spouse changed jobs, and now, I'm not receiving the child support payments that I am entitled to. What should I do?
If you have Department of Revenue (DOR) Child Support Enforcement, DOR is supposed to send the income deduction order to the new employer. If you are not represented by DOR, you can obtain a CERTIFIED copy of the income deduction order from the court file and send it to the new employer yourself. Florida statutes require that it be sent by CERTIFIED MAIL RETURN RECEIPT. If payments have been missed, you may ask the court to add the missing amounts to his/her current payments.
 
The non-custodial parent took the child for visitation, and now he/she won't return the child. How do I regain custody of our child who is being kept by the non-custodial parent? If you feel the child is in some kind of immediate danger in the other parent's home, you should contact the Florida Department of Children and Families at 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873. If the child is not in Florida you should contact the authorities responsible for abuse allegations in the jurisdiction where the child is located. If the child is not in any danger, you should contact your attorney.

How can I get a visitation and/or child support order that came from another state transferred into this court?

Visitation: If you have another jurisdiction’s order or judgment that you want enforced locally, you must register the order with the local clerk’s office and then ask the local Court to enforce it. The clerk will require an original certified copy (with original notary seals) of the out-of-state order.
NOTE: if the child doesn’t reside in Florida, you may need to pursue this matter in the state where the child resides.

Child Support:
 You should first contact the Department of Revenue for assistance in having an out-of-jurisdiction child support order enforced. If that is unsuccessful, follow the directions shown above for enforcement of non-local visitation orders. NOTE: There are many legal issues involved in enforcing or modifying a child support order. If one parent doesn’t reside in Florida, it is recommended that you seek advice from an attorney.

Court filings:

How do I check on the status of paperwork that I filed with the court?
When forms, documents and other paperwork relating to a matter before the court are “filed,” they become part of the court file on that case, and the clerk of the court where the case is pending is the custodian of all such files. Any questions about such forms, documents, etc., should be directed to the clerk’s office.

Divorce: How do I get a divorce?

If children are involved, you cannot get a simplified divorce even if you and your spouse are not contesting anything.

If you have children, think your divorce might be contested, or cannot find your spouse, you should have a lawyer. But if you must proceed without a lawyer, contact the clerk of court for forms to be used in filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. There are several mandatory forms that must be filed in cases with minor children, such as  a Financial Affidavit and a Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act affidavit. You must also attend, in person, an approved parent education and family stabilization course.

How can divorce documents be served on a spouse whose whereabouts are unknown?
When a spouse cannot be located so that he/she can be personally served with a Dissolution (divorce) petition, a method called “Constructive Service” should be explored. The clerk of court should be contacted for more information on this technical area of the law, and legal advice is strongly recommended. Failure to correctly follow the law may prevent a finalization of the divorce.

How can I make an ex-spouse pay alimony that is owed to me?
The Department of Revenue, which assists in the collection of child support, does not participate in the collection of alimony unless unpaid child support payments are also involved. When possible, it is recommended that you be represented by an attorney in all court matters.


Contact the Chandler Law Firm today for your free initial consultation. Attorney Chandler represent clients throughout South Florida, including Broward County, Dade County and Palm Beach County. He is a Pompano Beach attorney divorce attorney and family lawyer. He understands what you are going through and he is prepared to provide the strong and effective representation you need during this time. Whatever you may be facing in the area of family law, do not hesitate to contact our Pompano Beach office today for aggressive legal support and representation. We know the law and will protect your rights! Call today (954) 788-1355.



FEES:
Most attorney fee structures in family law matters are based on a reasonable and affordable hourly rate.I will take credit cards if that makes it easier for you. If you have special circumstances or needs, a payment plan is possible.I work in  courts in Broward County, Dade County and Palm Beach County, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and West Palm Beach.

I am prepared to take it all the way to trial if necessary.

For experience and sound legal counsel, call the professionals at The Law Office of Edward J. Chandler, P.A. today. Marital and family law requires care and consideration because of the emotional aspects involved in dissolving marriages, child time-sharing and custody and equitable property division. If you are involved in a divorce, the emotions and feelings are intertwined in every aspect of the case.

You benefit from the knowledge and experience of a divorce attorney. I am devoted to helping  you with legal issues related to divorce and family law. I work with you to give you the options you need. I offer you the support, attention and consideration that you deserve.

I represent clients in both contested and uncontested divorce. I participate in mediation and  collaborative law to save time, money and stress. I  address the issues that may arise during your divorce, such as child custody, child support, parenting time sharing - visitation, property rights, property division, alimony, domestic violence, relocation, contempt, and the recovery of attorney's fees. I determine whether you may have the right to or may be asked to pay permanent alimony, durational alimony,  rehabilitative alimony or transitional bridge the gap alimony as well as child support.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

You may go to court to petition for an injunction to protect yourself against domestic violence (assault or battery by your spouse whether you are separated or not, or your former spouse), repeat violence, or sexual violence. If you feel you are the victim of domestic violence, repeat violence, or sexual violence, you should contact the office of the clerk of the circuit court in your county or the local domestic violence shelter for information and assistance.

PROPERTY DIVISION

One of the most difficult and complex areas of divorce is the division of marital assets and debts. Marital property may include cars, houses, retirement benefits (pensions and 401k plans), business interests, cash, stocks, bonds, bank accounts, personal property, and other things of value. Debts, also called liabilities, include mortgages, car loans, credit card accounts, and other amounts of money you and your spouse owe to third parties.
Generally, any asset or liability acquired during the marriage is considered marital and subject to distribution. The parties may also have assets or liabilities that are considered non-marital and should be awarded to only one party.

Florida statutes and case law provide for an “equitable distribution” of marital assets and liabilities. Marital property should be divided fairly or equitably (not necessarily equally) between the parties, regardless of how title is
held. A court decides equitable distribution before considering alimony. Equitable distribution is based on a long list of factors the court is required to consider.
Factors to be considered by the court include the contribution of each spouse to the marriage; the duration of
 the marriage; and the economic circumstances of each spouse. The court should approve your agreement if the court finds it to be reasonable. If you and your spouse cannot agree, the court will divide the assets and
liabilities during trial.

ALIMONY

After equitable distribution, the court may consider an alimony award. The court may grant alimony to either the husband or the wife. Rehabilitative alimony may be for a limited period of time to assist in redeveloping skills and financial independence. Parties requesting rehabilitative alimony must have a plan for their rehabilitation such as the cost of going to school to improve skills and marketability. Bridge-the-gap alimony allows a party to make  the transition from married to single life which may include the need to obtain a vehicle and/or money to find a place to live. Permanent alimony continues until the receiving spouse’s remarriage or the death of either party. The court can also order alimony for a certain period of time, which is called durational alimony. Rehabilitative, permanent,
and durational alimony generally are paid periodically (i.e., monthly or semi-monthly); bridge-the-gap alimony can be paid in a lump sum at one time, or may be paid over a very short period of time. The court may also order lump-sum alimony where one party pays to the other party a lump-sum payment of money or property. Although adultery does not mandate or bar an award of alimony, the court may consider the circumstances of adultery in determining alimony.

In awarding alimony, the court considers factors such as the parties’ prior standard of living; length of the marriage; age and physical and emotional condition of both spouses; each spouse’s financial resources and income-producing capacity of the assets they receive; the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to find appropriate employment; and the services rendered in homemaking, child rearing, and education and career building
 of the other spouse. The court may consider any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the husband and wife.

You have the right to obtain information about your spouse’s income and assets through the use of
discovery procedures. Discovery includes exchange of documents and answers to written or oral questions.

TAXES

There are very important tax considerations in any divorce, including the dependency deduction for
children, taxability and deductibility of child support and alimony in their various forms, and effects of property transfers. Knowing the tax consequences of your settlement agreement is important prior to
finalizing your divorce. It may be too late after the signing of a final judgment to correct mistakes that have been made. You may want to obtain the services of an accountant in conjunction with your attorney to become better informed about this part of the dissolution process.

SHARED PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR CHILDREN

It is the public policy of Florida to ensure each minor child has frequent and continuing contact
with both parents after the parents have separated or divorced and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing. The court gives both parties the same consideration in determining parental responsibility and time-sharing, regardless of the child’s age or gender.

In most cases, parental responsibility for a minor child will be shared by both parents so that each retains full parental rights and responsibilities with respect to their child. Shared parenting requires both parents to confer so that major decisions affecting the welfare of the child will be determined jointly. You and your spouse may agree, or the court may order, that one parent have the ultimate responsibility over specific aspects of the
child’s welfare, such as education, religion, or medical and dental needs. The court will determine any or all of these matters if the parties cannot agree.

In very rare cases, the court can order sole parental responsibility to one parent. To do so, the court must determine that shared parental responsibility would cause harm to the child.

In determining parental responsibility, the court will approve or devise its own a parenting plan that includes responsibility for the daily tasks of child rearing, the time-sharing schedule, and decision-making authority relating to health care, school, and related activities. The plan will also specify any technology that will be used for parent-child communication. The parents may agree on a parenting plan and submit it to the court for approval or the court will determine these issues. The statute includes a list of factors for the court to consider in making these decisions.

BEST INTEREST STANDARD

The courts use the Best Interests of the Child Standard when considering parental issues.

Florida law requires both parties to attend a parenting course prior to entering a final divorce. Some courts require children of parents going through divorce to attend a class specifically designed for them. Consult your county clerk’s office for information on courses offered.

CHILD SUPPORT

You and your spouse each have a responsibility to support your children in accordance with their needs and your income. Child support may be by direct payment or by indirect benefits, such as mortgage payments, insurance, or payment of medical and dental expenses. Ordinarily, the obligation to support your child ends when that child reaches age 18, marries, is emancipated, joins the armed forces, or dies.

Some of the issues concerning child support which must be considered include: (a) the amount of
support; (b) the method of payment; (c) ways to assure payments are made; (d) when child support may be increased or decreased; and (e) who claims the dependency deduction for tax purposes. Other questions may need to be answered, depending on the circumstances of your case. Guidelines for the amount of support apply to all cases and are based on the income of the parents and the number of children with adjustments for substantial overnight contact.

If you have a problem getting support payments from your spouse or former spouse, or the time-sharing plan is not being followed, you should bring this matter to the attention of the court. It is not legal to withhold time sharing or child support payments because either parent fails to pay court ordered child support or violates the time-sharing schedule in the parenting plan.

APPEALS

If you feel the judge’s decision was incorrect, you may appeal that decision, provided that certain procedural steps are followed. An appellate court does not, however, often reverse a trial judge’s decision because the judge has broad discretion in divorce cases. If the trial judge makes an error of law or has abused his or her discretion, the appellate court may reverse the decision. Your appeal success will be limited if your only reason for appeal is displeasure with the judge’s decision. You need to determine whether to appeal the final judgment quickly because an appeal must be filed within 30 days of filing of the final judgment.

ATTORNEYS' FEES AND COSTS

The fees and costs for dissolution of marriage cases widely vary. The more complex and/or the more contested the issues, the more the dissolution will cost. At an initial meeting, your attorney should be able to provide an estimate of the total cost of a dissolution based on the information you provide.

Your lawyer will expect you to pay a fee and the costs of litigation in accordance with the agreement you make. Sometimes the court will order your spouse to pay part or all of your fee and costs, but such awards are unpredictable and cannot be relied upon. You are primarily responsible for the payment of your legal fees.

In a divorce, it is illegal for an attorney to work on a contingency fee basis; that is, where the lawyer’s
 fee is based upon a percentage of the amount awarded to the client.

Divorce In Florida

Frequently asked  Questions:

  • Can your marriage be saved?
  • Regular Dissolution of Marriage
  • Simplified Dissolution of Marriage
  • Domestic Violence
  • Property Division
  • Alimony
  • Taxes
  • Shared Parental Responsibility For Children
  • Child Support
  • Appeals
  • Attorneys' Fees And Costs


CAN YOUR MARRIAGE BE SAVED?

Are you sure your marriage cannot be saved? Before you take any legal steps to end your marriage, you may consider possible ways to save it. You may wish to consult with a  marriage counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, minister, priest, rabbi  or other qualified person. Many social and religious organizations offer counseling services at reasonable rates. Your attorney may refer you to someone who can counsel you, individually, or you together with your spouse. Some counseling services are free and some services are offered on a sliding scale basis related to your ability to pay.

Dissolution of Marriage

The official term for divorce in Florida is “dissolution of marriage.”

Florida is one of the many states that has abolished fault as a ground for divorce. The only requirement to dissolve your marriage is to prove that your marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Either spouse can file for the dissolution of marriage. You must prove that a marriage exists, one party has been a Florida resident for six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition, and the marriage is irretrievably broken. Fault, however, may be considered
under certain circumstances in the award of alimony, equitable distribution of marital assets and liabilities, and determination of parental responsibility.

Each divorce case is unique and, therefore, results vary from case to case. In each case, the issues are  different, which can include the division of property and possessions, responsibility for support, and parental responsibility and time-sharing with children.

The divorce process can be highly emotional and traumatic for the parties as well as the children. Marriage partners often do not know their legal rights and obligations. Court clerks and judges can answer some of your basic questions, but are prohibited from giving you legal advice. Only your lawyer can provide legal advice. Statutory requirements and court rules must be strictly followed or you may lose certain rights permanently. The Florida Bar
recommends you obtain the services of an attorney concerning legal questions which include discussions regarding your rights in a divorce, your children’s rights, your property rights, and your responsibilities resulting from the marriage. Attorney Edward J. Chandler is a knowledgeable lawyer that can analyze your unique situation and help you make decisions in your best interest and that of your family.

There are two ways of getting a divorce, or dissolution, in Florida. The usual way is called a “Regular Dissolution of Marriage.” The second method is the “Simplified Dissolution of Marriage.”

REGULAR DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE

The regular dissolution process begins with a petition for dissolution of marriage, filed with the circuit court, in the county where you last lived together as husband and wife or in the county where either party resides. Either the husband or wife may file for dissolution of marriage and the petitioner must allege that the marriage is irretrievably broken. The petition sets out what the person wants from the court. The other spouse must file an answer within 20 days of being served, addressing the matters in the initial petition and, if he or she wishes, including a counter-petition for dissolution of marriage raising any additional issues the answering party requests
the court to address.

Court rules governing divorces require that each party provide certain financial documents and a completed financial affidavit to the other party within 45 days of the service of the petition or several days before any temporary hearing. Failure to provide this information can result in the court dismissing the case or not considering that party’s requests. The parties or the court can modify these requirements except for the filing of a financial affidavit, which is mandatory in all cases in which financial relief is sought. A child support guidelines worksheet must also be filed with the court at or before any hearing on child support. This requirement may not be waived by the parties or the court.

Some couples agree on property, parental responsibility, and other post-divorce arrangements before or soon after the original petition is filed. They then enter into a written agreement signed by both parties that is presented to the court.
Other couples may disagree on some issues, but eventually work out their differences, and also appear for a final hearing with a suggested settlement they ask the court to accept and incorporate into a final judgment. In such uncontested cases, a divorce can become final in a matter of a few weeks.

Mediation is a procedure to assist you and your spouse in working out an arrangement for reaching agreement without a protracted process or a trial. Its purpose is not to save a marriage, but to help divorcing couples reach a solution and arrive at agreeable terms for handling the break-up of the marriage. Many counties have public or court-connected mediation services available. Some counties require couples to attempt mediation before a trial can be set.

Finally, some couples cannot agree on much of anything and a trial with each side presenting its case  is required. The judge makes the final decision on contested issues.

Coming to an agreement rather than leaving decisions up to a judge empowers parties to create terms with which they are more likely to comply.

SIMPLIFIED DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE

Certain couples are eligible to dissolve their marriage by way of a simplified procedure. This type of dissolution was designed so the services of an attorney may not be necessary. Couples are responsible, however, for filing all necessary documents correctly, and both parties are required to appear before a judge together when the final dissolution is granted. You can, however, retain an attorney to represent you even in an uncontested matter. The cost for such services is generally much less than in a contested case. You can further reduce your attorney’s fees if you ensure that you and your spouse have reached an agreement on all issues which will reduce
the work needed by a lawyer.

Not everyone can use this simplified procedure. A husband and wife can use the simplified dissolution of marriage only if all the following requirements are met: (a) they both agree to the use of this form of dissolution proceeding; (b) they have no minor (under 18) or dependent children; (c) they have no adopted children under the age of 18; (d) the wife is not pregnant; (e) at least one of the parties has lived in Florida for the past six months; (f) the parties have agreed on the division of all of their property (assets) and obligations (debts); (g) neither party is seeking alimony; and (h) both parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken. If  you cannot meet all of the above requirements, you will have to follow the procedure of the regular dissolution of marriage process.

There are substantial differences between a simplified and a regular dissolution of marriage. In a regular  dissolution, each spouse has the right to examine and cross-examine the other as a witness. Each spouse also has the ability to obtain documents concerning the other’s income, expenses, assets and liabilities before a trial or settlement. With a simplified dissolution, financial information may be requested by either party but disclosing financial information is not required.

If the husband and wife seek a dissolution and prefer to use the simplified form of dissolution, they should both contact the clerk of the circuit court in their county and obtain a copy of the booklet titled “Simplified Dissolution Information” for more detailed information and forms.