The parent in a divorce case who is awarded “secondary residential care” of the child(ren) receives visitation. I always recommend that parents should resolve all visitation issues themselves because, if a judge determines the visitation amount and schedule at trial, neither parent will be satisfied most likely. This is because visitation is such a personal matter and dependent upon the parties’ work and personal schedules and routines. Although there is no court-approved visitation schedule in Pinellas County, it is typical for a non-custodial parent of school aged children to be awarded visitation from Friday after school until Monday morning at school, one day during the week (for example, from after school until bedtime), one-half of all school holidays, and several weeks during the summer. In my experience, judges are less inclined to award the same type of visitation for infants, but judges will permit overnight visitation if appropriate. “Reasonable visitation” (that is, unrestricted visitation) is presumed under Florida law. If the custodial parent seeks to restrict the other parent’s visitation (for example, supervised visitation), the custodial parent has the burden to proof.
Either party may file a Motion for Parent Facilitator (Coordinator) in a divorce lawsuit. The motion is a request for the judge to appoint a person, usually a child psychologist, to act as a go-between of parents who cannot agree on visitation and/or shared parental responsibility issues. Although a parent facilitator can only make recommendations to a judge, judges usually approve the recommendations and incorporate them in their orders.
If a non-custodial parent receives visitation including 40% or more overnights per month, the normal child support guidelines as set forth in Florida Statute 61.30, must be substantially reduced per a statutory formula.
Unless otherwise stated in a Marital Settlement Agreement, Final Judgment, etc,, a non-custodial parent has the right to take the parties children out-of-state for temporary visits such as vacations. It is normal that the non-custodial parent provide the other parent with an itinerary with as much notice as possible.
Florida courts have ruled that grandparents do not have any legal right to visitation. The expression “bad facts make bad law” applies here. This law evolved from cases in which grandparents interfered with one or both parents raising their children. However, paternal grandparents, for example, are free to visit with their grandchild(ren) when their father. Also, Florida law provides that grandparents and other extended family member have the right to seek temporary custody of a minor child.
In all cases involving visitation or shared parental responsibility issues, I recommend to my clients that they start diaries. The diary should only include only negative facts such as the other spouse’s interference with visitation or no-show or late-show for visitation, etc., but should not contain emotional language, overstatements, understatements, conclusions, opinions, or summaries. The entries should be made on the same day of the occurrence. Although a diary is hearsay, it can be used into evidence at a hearing or trial to refresh a client’s memory.