What Do I Do Now That I Am Divorced?
There are different answers to this question. However, the answer is clear when you and your former spouse have a minor child in common. In the event that you do not, then you pretty much move on in your life and start rebuilding your life as a single person.
As much as some people may think, “I am finally divorced; my former spouse is out of my life!” Think again! If you have a child together, both parents must sharpen their communication skills with each other, stop communicating through the child, and talk to the other parent.
We can begin with the parent that has been awarded the majority of overnight contact with the child; this is the parent with whom the child primarily resides. The court views this parent as having the special privilege of having the child with him or her on a primary basis, therefore that parent has a greater role of responsibility to keep the other parent informed as to the happenings in the child’s life, regardless of whether the other parent requests information about the child or not. What does it mean to have a “greater role of responsibility?” This means that the parent with majority time sharing carries the burden of always keeping the other parent informed regarding the child’s education, medical issues, activities and upbringing.
For example, when the child receives a progress report or report card from school, it is the responsibility of the parent with majority timesharing to make sure that the other parent receives a copy of these documents. This is very important because (1) the other parent has a right to be informed as to the child’s progress in their education, (2) the other parent is also able to praise the child for their good work in school and, (3) if the child is doing poorly in school, the other parent also has the opportunity to help the child improve their grades when the child is visiting with him or her and, (4) the other parent has a right to jointly confer and make decisions concerning the child’s education plan.
Each parent must notify the other parent promptly of any serious illness or accident affecting the child. Keep in mind that if it is an emergency situation, you do not have to get the other parent’s permission to seek medical treatment for the child, take the child to the emergency room and immediately contact the other parent and inform them of the situation.
Whenever the child is participating in any extra-curricular activities, each parent is allowed to be present. For example, if the child is involved in sports, just because it is not the other parent’s scheduled weekend with the child, it does not mean that the other parent is not allowed to go to the park and enjoy the ball game too. What the court encourages is for both parents to be in attendance, not necessarily seated together, but at least showing a united front in providing support for the child. Despite the parents divorcing one another, neither parent is ending the relationship with the child they have in common.
Not everyone is able to communicate about his or her child with the other parent. Sometimes parents can communicate and think of the child first, but then again there are parents that just cannot get along because things maybe too emotional or he or she just cannot carry on a civilized conversation with one another. There are options to assist the parents in communicating including using email. Email communication is helpful because the parents do not have to speak to one another face to face, but yet keep each other informed. In addition, email can keep everyone civilized because the communication is documented. Another option is keep a notebook and exchange the notebook with the child at each child exchange. The parent who has the notebook would write in information or news about the child including how the child is doing in school, what is the child’s current health condition, and what are the child’s upcoming events and activities. A parent can even include documents with the notebook such as progress reports, receipt from a doctor’s visit, and pictures of the child. The child should not be involved in carrying the notebook for exchange between the parents or writing in the notebook. Just remember communication is key, that way both parents are always on the same page when it comes to the child.
Wanting to Relocate with your Children?
From time to time we will be answering questions from persons who have questions about family law. Sonia from Kissimmee has a question, and she wrote:
“My former husband and I were divorced here in Florida for over a year now and we have two minor children in common; I would like to move back to Puerto Rico because I have strong family ties there. The children’s father would prefer that I do not because he would not be able to visit with the children as often. Can I move?”
Well, to answer this question, it all depends. As a result of you wanting to move the children more than fifty (50) miles away from their place of residence, you would need permission from the father or from the Court. One possible resolution is to discuss if you and the father are able to come to an agreement to allow you and the children to move to Puerto Rico. One of the most important details that you have to remember is that the agreement must be a written agreement. The agreement must state that both parties are consenting to the relocation of the minor children to move with the primary parent to Puerto Rico. The agreement must specifically state what type of visitation the minor children are going to have with the father, and any transportation arrangements that are going to be made. In this situation, one should determine: When are the children going to be able to visit with their father? Are the parties going to alternate Christmas Break, Spring Break and other holidays? Is the father going to have the entire summer vacation with the children? Who is going to be responsible for the cost of plane tickets; is the father going to be solely responsible or are the parties going to split the cost equally? Once the agreement is drafted, signed and notarized, then the proper procedure needs to be taken in order to have this agreement ratified by the Court.
If the father is not in agreement to allow the children to relocate to Puerto Rico the first thing that needs to be done is a Notice of Intent to Relocate. The purpose of the Notice of Intent to Relocate is to inform the other parent in writing of your proposed relocation of the minor children. There are several requirements that must be met in the Notice of Intent to Relocate, and this can be researched by looking up Florida Statute 61.13001. Just to give you an idea of some of the requirements, here are some:
A description of the intended new residence (including the state, city and specific address);
The mailing address of the intended new residence, if not the same as the physical address;
The home telephone number of the new residence, if known;
The date of move or proposed relocation;
A detailed statement of the specific reasons for the proposed relocation of the children, and if a job offer is at issue and it is in written format, then it should be attached to the notice;
A proposal of the revised relocation schedule.
Again, these are just some of the requirements; there are other provisions that have to be followed in order to properly comply with the Notice of Intent to Relocate. Once this Notice of Intent to Relocate is served properly upon the non-custodial parent, he/she shall have thirty (30) days in order to object to the proposed relocation.
What are some of the things that the Court considers in granting the relocation? Well you have to remember the burden falls on the person seeking the relocation of the minor children. The Court may look at what type of detriment the move will cause the relationship between the minor children and the non-custodial parent, if there has been any interference with visitation in the past, whether or not the person seeking the relocation is the type of parent to promote frequent and continuing contact between the children and the non-custodial parent and any other factors the Court deems important in rendering its decision.
The most important piece of information that can be passed along to you is to BE PATIENT and RESONABLE. Do not take the law into your own hands, because in the end more than likely this will be very detrimental in your wanting to relocate with the children. Keep in mind that you will be best sewed by consulting with and retaining a skilled family law attorney prior to taking any action.
Divorce Doesn’t End Your Relationship With Your Children
Every so often we answer questions and post them on our website. If we think someone else may benefit from the information we feel we should share it. A question that recently came up was:
“My former wife is the primary residential parent of the children but she never involves me or keeps me up to date in reference to what is going on in the children’s lives. Is that allowed just because she is the primary residential parent?”
The answer to this question is “NO”, unless the court has awarded her sole parental responsibility of the children, which is an unusual circumstance. In this case, I will assume that this is not one of those unusual circumstances, and that you and the mother of the children have what is called shared parental responsibility.
So the next logical question is what is shared parental responsibility? The State of Florida has established a public policy that encourages parents to share in the rights and responsibilities of the children they have in common. Both parents retain full parental rights and responsibility of the children, and should confer with one another when they are making any major decisions regarding the children. These rights and responsibilities include, but are not limited to, education, medical and religious matters.
The purpose of shared parental responsibility is to make sure the children are the number one priority. It is the parent’s responsibility to ensure that the children continue a loving, and open relationship with both parents. Neither parent may alienate a child’s affection for the other parent; they should never degrade the other parent or allow any other person to do so in the presence of the children.
Other matters involving shared parent responsibility is the welfare of the children. Each parent must notify the other parent promptly of any serious illness or accident affecting the children. Keep in mind that if it is an emergency situation, you do not have to get the other parent’s permission to seek medical treatment for the child, take the child to the emergency room and immediately contact the other parent and inform them of the situation.
A few examples of parental responsibility are:
Whenever the children receive progress reports or report cards from school, the primary residential parent should make copies of these items and provide them to the non-residential parent. This can help keep the non-residential parent involved in two ways: (1) He/She is also able to praise the children for their good work in school and, (2) If the children are doing poorly in school, the non-residential parent also has the opportunity to help the children improve their grades when the children are exercising visitation with them.
Whenever the children are participating in any extra-curricular activities, both parents are allowed to be present. For example, if any of the children are involved in sports, just because it is not the non-residential parent’s scheduled weekend with the children, it does not mean that the non-residential parent is not allowed to go to the park and enjoy the ball game too. What the court encourages is for both parents to be in attendance, not necessarily seated together, but at least showing a united front in providing support for the child. Despite the parents divorcing one another, neither parent is ending the relationship with the children they have in common.
There is one thing I always like to explain to prospective clients that are in the process of obtaining a divorce, “Remember, you have children in common for the rest of your lives, you will attend functions where the other parent will be present, you will have grandchildren in common, so be as courteous as possible to one another, not for your sake, but for the children you both to love so much!”