Bill Beck a family law attorney in Clearwater/Tarpon Springs, Florida answers:
There are two main types of visitation arrangements:
The first type is a “one-size-fits-all” visitation schedule imposed by a Judge after a long and expensive trial. At trial, each parent tries to make the other parent look the “worst” while the Judge has the burden of deciding which parent is the “best”. While some circumstances involving abuse or neglect absolutely require this type of Court intervention, unnecessarily sour custody battles between otherwise loving parents put an incredible strain on your ability to focus on what’s most important: your children. In the end, a bitter custody battle takes much more time and money than may have ever been necessary and, what’s worse, the parents have completely destroyed the post-dissolution relationship they need to co-parent their children.
After trial, Florida Judges usually award custody, now called Majority Time-Sharing, to one parent while awarding the other parent every-other weekend Time-Sharing visitation. Judges may also consider a 50/50 Rotating Time-Sharing schedule if your child is not yet in school or under extraordinary circumstances. Court ordered Rotating Time-Sharing is rare and depends a lot upon the individual Judge’s feelings about 50/50 custody. Don’t count on 50/50 custody unless both parents agree to it before trial. Some Judges will simply not order Rotating custody because some professionals feel that a 50/50 schedule is detrimental to children.
The second type of visitation arrangement is specifically tailored to the needs of your family and your unique circumstances. This type of visitation schedule is best, of course, and must be mutually agreed upon by both parents prior to trial. A Judge will not take time to tailor a unique visitation schedule and is actually precluded from such an uneven application of the law. However, there are professionals that help parents craft unique visitation schedules for a fraction of the cost of a trial. In fact, Judges prefer parents to make their own parenting decisions and will almost always defer to your good judgment. Under normal circumstances, parents can usually come to an agreement as the result of Mediation. It may be difficult to believe that you could ever agree with your spouse on a visitation schedule in the middle of a divorce, but mediated visitation schedules are better because parents know their circumstances and their children better than any Judge ever could.
While many parents craft a visitation schedule very similar to what a Judge would likely Order after a trial, many other parents are able to craft a more creative schedule that is much more flexible than a Judge is allowed to Order. Either way, parents are almost always more satisfied after a divorce where they remained in control of the outcome and their destiny. The truth is: the type of visitation schedule you end up with may actually depend upon your lawyer’s knowledge of the law and their ability to negotiate as well as your own ability to follow good advice and focus on the best interests of your children.
Bill Beck is the founder of Florida family law firm Bill Beck Law.