Your Guide to Your Rights as the Non-Custodial Parent in Sarasota, Bradenton, and Venice, FL
Divorce is one of the most difficult things you will ever go through. If you are thinking about filing for divorce, the first thing you should do is hire the best divorce lawyer you can find and afford. If you have children with your spouse, it can make the divorce process much more difficult. If you spouse is asking for sole custody, then you should understand what your rights would be as the non-custodial parent if this request is granted. This is something you can discuss with your family law attorney here in Sarasota, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, and Venice, Florida. However, you should understand that it is very rare that the Court will grant permanent sole parental responsibility in a divorce case here in Sarasota County and Manatee County.
As the “non-custodial” parent (a term that is no longer used in the family law courts in Sarasota, Bradenton, and Venice), you would still have visitation rights. These visitation rights are now called timesharing. It is essential that you talk to a divorce lawyer near you such as Attorney Matthew Z. Martell and let him know what you would like the visitation schedule to look like. The visitation schedule is now called a Parenting Plan and there are 4 approved form Parenting Plans that are used here in the 12th Judicial Circuit. In most cases where sole parental responsibility is actually ordered, it is supervised timesharing. It can be supervised by another family member (such as a grandparent), a mutual friend of the family, or in the most extreme cases at a local Child Protective Services center. If you are not going to be able to see your child during your scheduled timesharing, then you need to let the Court now that the proposed timesharing order conflicts with your work schedule. If there are such issues regarding the temporary timesharing schedule, then your Sarasota, Bradenton, or Venice, FL divorce attorney can work with your spouse’s attorney to attempt come up with something that satisfies everyone. The bottom line is that the Court wants you to be able to see your children as much as possible unless there are verified complaints of child abuse. So, such because your spouse demand sole parental responsible with supervised timesharing does not mean she is going to get it. My advice to a client in this position is to fight it because chances are the Court is going to give you a lot more custody rights (now called parental responsibility) and a lot more timesharing than what you spouse is trying to force upon you during the divorce.
The court will determine the timesharing schedule based on certain factors. These include:
- Your child’s basic needs and requirements
- The distance each parent lives from each other
- Whether there have been verified instances of serious child abuse or child neglect
- The work schedules of both parents
Holidays and School Vacations
As the non-custodial parent, you have the right to see your children on holidays and school summer break vacations, even if they do not fall during your regularly scheduled visits. Your divorce lawyer here in Sarasota, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, and Venice, Florida can work with your spouse’s lawyer to set up a holiday and school summer break vacation schedule that works for everyone. Many couples will alternate major holidays every year, giving both parents a chance to spends these special days with their children. Most parents, continue the regular weekly timesharing schedule during the school summer break unless it is a Long-Distance Parenting Plan. In such cases, the “away” parent gets the children for most of the summer. In the rare cases when sole parental responsibility is granted, you can expect timesharing to continue to be supervised for at least the school summer break vacation. Again, the Courts strongly prefer not to have supervised timesharing. So, if you can demonstrate that you are a good and responsible parent over a period of time, they are likely eventually to then order that it be non-supervised timesharing. Essentially, it has been my experience that Courts are reluctant to order supervised timesharing unless it is absolutely necessary.
Access to Medical and School Records
Even though you don’t have shared parentally responsibility of your children, you still have the right to their receive and review their medical and school records. For example, if you have any questions for your child’s pediatrician regarding their health, or certain medications they are taking, then you have the right to review this doctor’s medical records and also normally at least consult with this doctor.
You also have a right to access your child’s school records, including their report card and any other school records pertaining to your child. Finally, you also have the right to attend parent-teacher conferences.
Report Legitimate Child Abuse and Child Neglect
As the non-custodial parent, you still have the right to report anything legitimate that you know is occurring in the other parent’s home which is child abuse or child neglect. This include serious child neglect, child abuse, or any serious harmful behavior of the other parent such as drug use or serious alcoholism that could negatively affect your child. It is essential that you understand this because you have the still have the legal right to protect your child from such harm.
Reasonable Child Support
As the non-custodial parent, you will still be required to pay child support. Unfortunately, since you will probably be having no overnight timesharing with the children due to supervised timesharing, you will actually be required to pay more than you would normally if you had the kids for overnight timesharing at least 20% of the time. While you are required to make these child support payments, you do have the right to pay no more than the statutory amount required under the Child Support Guidelines Worksheet filed in your case. Despite what your spouse may be threatening, you most likely still will not be ordered to pay more in child support than you can truly afford or an amount that will put you in serious debt if you demand to have a hearing on child support in front of a Magistrate or a Hearing Officer. Having said this, you should first attempt to calculate the statutory amount you should be paying under the Florida statutes pursuant to a Child Support Guidelines Worksheet. You should then pay that amount to your spouse every month voluntary by check and not cash on the 1st of every month. This will reduce the chance greatly of getting saddled with an unfair child support award later at a hearing in front of the Judge or Magistrate.
You Can Make Changes
As time goes on, things in your life can change. For example, if you start a new job with different hours, you have the right to go back to court to have your timesharing schedule amended. If you lose your job or start a new job where you make less money, you have the right to have your child support order modified to fit with your new income. Just because you have a certain timesharing or child support order in place now does not mean it is not set in stone. It can be changed as your life changes.
If you plan to file for divorce, or if your spouse has already filed, and your spouse is seeking sole parental responsibility with supervised timesharing, then contact the Law Offices of Matthew Z. Martell at (941) 556-7020 for a Initial Phone Consultation. Our attorneys will ensure that your parental rights are not violated and that you get as much timesharing and parental responsibility to which you are legally entitled. To schedule an appointment for a Phone Consultation, give us a call today.