Area of Law:
If you are about to through a divorce or separation proceeding and have children, two of the main issues you will have to discuss are child support and visitation. Depending on the level of civility that exists between you and your former spouse, these issues can be resolved with varying degrees of ease.
Child support can be one of the most contentious issues in a divorce or separation proceeding. A certain level of trust is required by the supporting party that the supported party is, in actuality, using the money that is being sent to directly support the child. So, if you and your ex are comfortable with each other in that regard, you will be able to permit the court to decide a fair amount, thus allowing the supporting party to make the payments with a minimal amount of conflict.
The child support order generally mandates the amount and frequency that the supporting parent must pay to the supported parent for the purpose of supporting the child. As there is no streamlined way of determining how much child support is to be paid, most states have their own formulas for appraising child support amounts. However, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act lays out certain guidelines for states to follow.
In Florida, the court follows Florida Statutes 61.13 as a basic layout of the rules for determining the amount of support. Child support must continue either until the child reaches the age of majority or until a substantial change occurs with the circumstances of the parties. An online worksheet to help you estimate how much the supporting spouse will be mandated to pay based on the factors outlined in the Florida Child Support Statutes can be found here. It is important to note, however, that due to the specific nature of anything having to do with the best interests of the child, the court has broad discretion to consider any extraneous factors it deems relevant.
One last thing to keep in mind is that in spite of the divorce, you and your former spouse are still in a partnership with regards to raising your child, and you have to learn to work together, or the child will be the one who suffers. Always consider the child’s needs and interests, treat your former spouse with respect – think of him or her as a business partner if necessary, and make sure you consult with him or her before making large purchases on behalf of the child. After all you are still sharing that financial responsibility, even if you are not still romantically involved.
Visitation can be even more contentious than child support if there is bad blood between former spouses. Visitation issues can sometimes result in the custodial parent using the child as a pawn to agitate the non-custodial parent. The courts heavily frown upon this because it is almost always in the child’s best interest to have a substantial relationship with both parents, regardless of their marital status. As is the case with anything having to do with family law, visitation laws vary from state to state. However, the National Conference of Commissioners has laid out suggested state guidelines in the Interstate Child Visitation Act.
Child visitation guidelines are usually hashed out between former spouses through mediation. If you and your ex cannot come to an amicable agreement as to when the non-custodial parent will be allowed to visit the child, the court will decide this for you in order so as to meet the needs of the child. In Florida, if the non-custodial spouse violates the visitation order, the custodial parent may file an order to hold him or her in contempt of the court.