Evaluating competing homes for visitation purposes in Florida
When a couple separates or divorces, sometimes the standard of living may change if there are not assets and income to support the same lifestyle – times two. That does not necessarily mean that the standard of living is problematic for either ex-spouse going forward, but it can mean an adjustment.
When the couple has minor children, a detailed time-sharing schedule must be created. Often, the divorcing parties can negotiate custody and visitation matters, usually through their lawyers. But if they cannot reach a negotiated settlement, the judge in the divorce must make these decisions.
A party may be concerned if they feel their new residence as a single person is not as nice or large as the other spouse’s. They may have the belief that it will make the judge more inclined to give the other party more parenting time.
However, this is unlikely in most circumstances.
Parental contact encouraged
State statute says that the state of Florida has a public policy that “each minor child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents … and to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing.” Similarly, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that parental rights are constitutionally elevated.
Given the legal emphasis on the importance of children having contact with both parents, combined with the clear and important direction in Florida law that parenting-time schedules be in the child’s best interests, a difference in the quality or size of parental homes seems relatively unimportant.
The Florida law that lists relevant factors for the judge to consider when determining the child’s best interests does not include size or quality of the respective residences. In fact, in some circumstances, children are even allowed to visit a parent who is in a treatment facility. If parent-child contact is allowed in a nonresidential setting like that, unequal size or quality of parental homes is not likely to be an influence on visitation decisions.
Finally, each family is unique, so it is possible to conceive of a situation where a comparison of residences may be relevant. For example, if one parent’s home is unsafe or seriously unkept, that may impact the children’s best interests in spending time there.