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Update Your Co-Parenting Vocabulary for the New Year


Language changes quickly.  Now it is 2020, and, having firmly established a name for the decade known as the aughts, we now take their linguistic innovations for granted, such as the word “bromance” and using “friend” as a verb.  Meanwhile, the 1959 edition of the Elements of Style advised writers to refer to one unspecified person as “he,” but in the 1990s, the need for gender-inclusive language meant that you should say “he or she,” whereas singular “they” is now becoming the preferred term.  If you are newly navigating co-parenting with your former spouse, you are probably talking about it in terms that are legally inaccurate or misleadingly vague.  A Florida child custody lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and responsibilities in co-parenting, as well as all the terms that go with them.

Don’t Say “Custody,” Say “Parenting Time”

The word “custody” implies responsibility for something, which is why one speaks of criminal defendants being taken into custody and why a person tasked with cleaning and minor repairs at a school is called a custodian.  In ordinary speech, we often talk about a parent getting custody or losing custody of the children after a divorce.  This is an oversimplification that misses several important factors that make every co-parenting situation unique.

In fact, couples who divorce while their children are minors must design a parenting plan and have a judge sign it.  The parenting plan form requires many questions about physical custody (which parent is responsible for the child’s whereabouts at a given time) and legal custody (which parent is responsible for which decisions).  The parenting plan does not, however, deal with financial responsibilities; the court can only decide the parents’ financial responsibilities based on the parenting plan and on a thorough assessment of each parent’s financial situation.  In other words, you must make a parenting plan before you can finalize a child support agreement.

When you hear “joint custody,” you might imagine a rare situation in which the children spend some school days with Mom and others with Dad, and that the parents get along well enough to make this possible.  In fact, according to the true legal definition of custody, almost all divorced parents have joint custody of their children.  The parenting plan allots a certain number of days of parenting time per year to each parent; it also clearly provides for long weekends, holidays, and summer vacation.  You can even allocate some weekends or holidays to grandparents or other relatives.  As for legal custody, that is, decision-making authority, parents don’t have to negotiate about every decision, nor does one parent have the final say on everything.  You can specify, for example, that Mom can decide about school sports, whereas Dad can decide about orthodontics.

Let Us Help You Today

Successfully co-parenting requires you to work out many details in advance; a family law attorney can help you think through your decisions.  Contact the Boca Raton divorce lawyers at Schwartz | White about your case.


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