Let me preface by saying I am not a child psychologist--I am just a lawyer.
I came across this article in the Huffington Post yesterday and I paused. In my job, I work with parents who underneath it all, want what is best for their children. But sometimes, because of their own hurt and anger, they get sidetracked and lose sight of that. This article demonstrates what happens to children when parents lose sight of putting their children first and start nitpicking about material things, such as items of clothing. Children end up living out of suitcases.
In Florida, the best interest of the child is always the primary standard used when it comes to determining time-sharing. Judges will also look to other factors such as:
- The moral fitness of the parents.
- The mental and physical health of the parents.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship, to honor the time-sharing schedule, and to be reasonable when changes are required.
- The anticipated division of parental responsibilities after the litigation, including the extent to which parental responsibilities will be delegated to third parties.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.
- The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity.
- The geographic viability of the parenting plan, with special attention paid to the needs of school-age children and the amount of time to be spent traveling to effectuate the parenting plan. This factor does not create a presumption for or against relocation of either parent with a child.
- The home, school, and community record of the child.
- The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference.
- The demonstrated knowledge, capacity, and disposition of each parent to be informed of the circumstances of the minor child, including, but not limited to, the child’s friends, teachers, medical care providers, daily activities, and favorite things.
- The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to provide a consistent routine for the child, such as discipline, and daily schedules for homework, meals, and bedtime.
- The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child.
If parents are telling the child, "that's Daddy's shirt; make sure that shirt comes back to Daddy's house," or "where are Mommy's shoes? I paid $50.00 for those shoes?," the child will feel like he or she does not have a home. These statements are definitely not in the child's best interest and do not provide a stable environment.
If you are in the middle of a custody battle and time-sharing is yet to be determined, take a moment to reflect upon the statements you are making when you are sending your child to his or her other home or when it is time for him or her to come back. Be mindful of calling it Dad's house or Mom's house. Your child will begin to feel like he or she doesn't have a home.