As of October 1, 2008 as a result of a major revision to Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes (divorce statute), there was a fundamental shift in how courts address parenting issues in divorce cases (see “The End of Custody in Florida: Now Parents are just Parents,” Farr Newsletter, January 2009).
As part of this shift the courts are now required to address a whole new set of factors in order to make parenting determinations. Florida Statute 61.13(3)(a) through (t). In the old version of the divorce statute the parenting factors tended to focus mostly on the parenting history. The ultimate question almost always boiled down to which parent had, during the marriage, done most of the parenting.
While the new factors still look in part to the past, they now also require the court to anticipate the future. If the mother was a stay at home mom during the marriage, will she be working outside the home post-divorce? If so, will there necessarily be a shift in parenting responsibilities to dad or to third parties? Does either party have an emotional agenda with the other parent as the result of the divorce? If so, will that agenda interfere with that parent’s ability to facilitate the relationship between the minor children and the other parent post-divorce? What will be the ability of each parent post-divorce to be involved in the minor children’s education and extracurricular activities?
There are twenty separate parenting factors, many of which have subparts, which the court is required to evaluate in order to determine a parenting plan. Given the complexities of the parenting factors and this new shift toward looking at the future rather than the past, any individual contemplating a divorce where parenting issues are to be resolved should make sure that he or she retains counsel who has the requisite depth of knowledge and experience in family law cases.
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